NBA 2023-2024 Preview: Have the New York Knicks Reached Their Peak?

New York Knicks NBA Preview 2023 2024

Over the next month, our editorial team will dive deep into all 30 teams of America’s premier basketball league. Today, we turn our focus to New York to discuss the upcoming season of its iconic team, Tom Thibodeau’s Knicks

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The Knicks’ Best Season in a Decade

Since the 2012-2013 season, the Big Apple hadn’t witnessed such a successful run. While the 2020-2021 season’s record (cut short by Covid) was commendable, the New York Knicks’ 47 wins and 35 losses this season marks their best performance in a decade. Ranked 5th in the Eastern Conference with the 3rd best offensive rating (though their defense ranked only 19th), the Knicks were buoyed by Jalen Brunson, who joined from the Mavericks, and the ever-evolving Julius Randle. The trade to bring in Josh Hart proved fruitful, with him joining ranks with Mitchell Robinson and Quentin Grimes, both of whom contribute on both ends of the court.

Tom Thibodeau finally got to implement his favorite game plan, focusing on tight-knit defense with a minimized rotation. Evan Fournier notably had a challenging time, as he wasn’t a favorite under his coach and will likely play an even smaller role in the upcoming season. Regardless, the Knicks made it to the Playoffs, confronting and besting the Cavaliers – who themselves had a stellar regular season – with a surprising scoreline of 4 wins to 1. However, the Conference semi-finals didn’t end as favorably, with the eventual finalists, the Heat, prevailing over the spirited Knicks (4-2).

Offseason Moves

Departures

Derrick Rose (to Grizzlies), Obi Toppin (to Pacers), Trevor Keels (free agent).

Extensions

Josh Hart

Arrivals

Donte DiVincenzo (from Warriors), Duane Washington Jr (from Suns), Dylan Windler (two-way contract), Jaylen Martin (two-way contract), Nathan Knight (two-way contract).

New York Knicks’ Starting Five

Jalen Brunson – Quentin Grimes – RJ Barrett – Julius Randle – Mitchell Robinson

Bench Rotation

Point Guards

Immanuel Quickley, Miles McBride, Duane Washington Jr

Shooting Guards

Donte DiVincenzo, DaQuan Jeffries

Small Forwards

Josh Hart, Evan Fournier, Dylan Windler (two-way contract), Jaylen Martin (two-way contract)

Power Forwards

Isaiah Roby, Nathan Knight (two-way contract)

Centers

Isaiah Hartenstein, Jericho Sims.

Strengths and Weaknesse

Weaknesses

Does this roster truly have what it takes to aim higher than a Conference semi-final? The philosophy is commendable, the coach is skilled, there are two standout players with good support around them, but the team’s potential seems somewhat limited. This is especially evident when observing the reinforcements in the East, with Lillard joining the Bucks and Holiday heading to the Celtics. So, what’s the goal – one playoff round and out? This underscores a current dilemma in the NBA, where it seems teams must either aim for the title or tank to secure a promising future. The New York Knicks are in the upper-middle of the pack and can’t realistically hope for a championship this year unless a miraculous upset occurs. Thus, the limited potential of this team stands out as a primary weakness.

Strengths

Continuity is a notable strength for the Knicks, bolstered by the exciting addition of Donte DiVincenzo and the contract extension of Josh Hart, both of whom deepen the bench for Thibodeau. Mitchell Robinson is coming off a strong season and could continue his evident growth, especially on the offensive end. Young talents like Immanuel Quickley, Miles McBride, and Jericho Sims all have room to grow, hinting at untapped potential that might see the Knicks aim higher than a 5th place finish. As Brooklyn’s own Biggie once said, “Sky is the limit”. However, it remains uncertain whether a championship banner will grace the rafters of Madison Square Garden by season’s end.

Player Spotlight: Evan Fournier

He’s become the New York Knicks’ scapegoat for seemingly no valid reason. Evan Fournier’s defensive capabilities, which fall below his team’s average, might be the cause. This aspect is indeed vital for Tom Thibodeau but doesn’t justify the extensive sidelining of the French player. At 30, Evan just came off an almost non-existent season (playing in only 27 games, averaging 17 minutes) – not due to injuries, but Thibodeau’s decisions.

To give the Knicks’ coach some credit, Fournier’s shooting was indeed subpar this season, registering only a 33.7% field goal success rate and a disappointing 30.7% from beyond the arc – the worst percentages in his career. Consequently, he averaged only 6 points (a low he hadn’t experienced since his rookie season with the Nuggets) and faced long intervals without playtime during the season. The 2023-2024 season doesn’t seem to be starting on a brighter note for Fournier with the Knicks, even with his commendable individual performances with the French National Team and a preseason that proves his offensive prowess remains intact.

A trade, beneficial for both parties, seems plausible. Firstly, to allow Fournier game time and secondly, for the Knicks to acquire a player more suited to their current philosophy. The snag? Fournier is on a salary of $18.8 million, a figure that seems steep considering his recent underwhelming performance. Moreover, there’s a player option in his contract for 2024-2025, which most likely won’t be picked up, making Fournier a free agent in the summer of 2024. The optimistic scenario? A swift and miraculous trade, preferably before the deadline, granting Evan ample playtime before the 2024 Olympics. The pessimistic view? Fournier remains benched in New York, being out of shape and match fitness for the Paris Games. Here’s hoping for the former scenario.

End of Season Prediction: 6th in the Eastern Conference

While there’s continuity and potential growth within the Knicks’ roster, could they experience a drop in the standings? It’s plausible, especially considering the Heat underperformed in the regular season last year and are expected to climb the rankings this season. However, behind the Bucks and the Celtics, the Eastern Conference remains unpredictable. The Knicks could realistically aim for the 3rd or 4th spot, ensuring home-court advantage in the initial playoff round. Yet, they must also be wary not to slip too far down and get caught in the precarious position of the Play-In Tournament.

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