A guide to the New York Knicks’ 2022-23 season

After making some key offseason moves, the New York Knicks hope to head back to the playoffs this season.

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Despite overall missteps in the team last year, the New York Knicks are poised to make the playoffs this year. (Illustration by Max Van Hosen)

Adam Covey, Staff Writer

For Knicks fans, watching their team miss the playoffs is nothing new, as the team has made the playoffs just once since the 2012-13 season. However, their shocking playoff appearance two seasons ago in 2020-21 gave the fan base new life. Unfortunately, the Knicks’ success was short-lived, and they missed the postseason spot the next season.

After a successful offseason that saw the team make several significant moves, there is optimism that the Knicks can return to the postseason in 2022-23. Although they didn’t land former Utah Jazz All-Star Donovan Mitchell, as they seemingly were destined to do, this roster is markedly improved from last season.

Arguably the biggest problem that plagued the Knicks last season was the lack of a reliable point guard who could run the offense. Too often, the ends of close games had the offense in disarray. Derrick Rose admirably filled that role in 2020-21, but the former MVP’s injuries limited him to only 26 games last season. Rose cannot be counted on to be New York’s primary point guard at this stage of his career.

The Knicks filled this gap by inking former Dallas Maverick player Jalen Brunson to a four-year, $104 million contract. At first glance, the investment seemed exorbitant for someone who was not even a full-time starter until midway through last season. However, Brunson proved that he could step up during big moments: he averaged 21.6 points during the 2022 playoffs. While nobody would ever confuse Brunson for offensive greats Stephen Curry or Ja Morant, he has proven himself a reliable point guard and precisely what the Knicks need this season.

Another glaring issue for the Knicks last season was Julius Randle’s steep decline in performance. Randle was a second-team All-NBA selection and the NBA’s Most Improved Player two seasons ago, but he struggled last season, both on and off the court. Randle experienced drops in virtually every major statistical category and was not someone the Knicks could rely on to get a basket in crunch time. Nobody expects Randle to repeat his magical 2020-21 season, but the Knicks would greatly benefit from something closer to his All-NBA campaign.

While Randle and Brunson are indubitably two of the team’s most important players, they aren’t the face of the franchise. That title belongs to RJ Barrett, the 22-year-old rising star who was drafted 3rd overall by the Knicks back in 2019. Barrett has steadily improved each season — most notably, he averaged 24.5 points per game after last season’s All-Star Game, and the Knicks recently extended his contract for four more years. Barrett is already an above-average starter, but he has legitimate perennial All-Star potential. With the addition of Brunson, Barrett may not experience a major increase in his 20.0 points per game average from last season, but an improvement in his shooting efficiency and defense will be key to the Knicks’ success this upcoming season.

Aside from Barrett, Randle, and Brunson, several other key players on the roster will have a chance to be difference makers. Starting center Mitchell Robinson, fresh off signing a four-year, $60 million contract, will anchor the Knicks’ defense with his Defensive Player of the Year potential. 

If Rose, who was perhaps the Knicks’ second-best player in 2020-21, can avoid injury, his veteran presence and leadership will be crucial to the team’s success. He also has shown to be a clutch player throughout his career, and he is a viable option for the Knicks to go to when they need a key basket. Evan Fournier, who set the Knicks franchise record for three-pointers made in a season in his inaugural campaign, will provide reliable three-point shooting for the team.

Newcomers Immanuel Quickley, Obi Toppin and Quentin Grimes have also all shown great promise throughout their careers, and each of these players will play a significant role for the Knicks this season. While Head Coach Tom Thibodeau has a reputation for trusting veteran players, these young players are already solid NBA players and have significant room to improve.

Quickley has been a reliable spark plug off the bench in his first two NBA seasons, as his three-point shooting and elite free-throw shooting give the team’s second unit a jolt of energy. Toppin, a fan favorite with a penchant for highlight reel dunks, has shown he is more than capable of handling a more significant role. When he was inserted into the starting lineup in the final five games of the season, he averaged 27.2 points per game. Grimes, despite playing only 17.1 minutes per game last season, impressed with his defense and three-point shooting, and he has an outside shot of replacing Fournier as the team’s starting shooting guard. 

Depth pieces Miles McBride, Cam Reddish and newly signed Isaiah Hartenstein likely won’t see major minutes when the team is at full strength, but every player has the talent to help the squad, especially on defense.

While the Knicks don’t have the ceiling of championship contenders like the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets, a playoff appearance is certainly on the table. Now that the play-in tournament has been permanently implemented, New York has a great shot at booking a trip to the playoffs. An eighth-seed finish and a first-round exit seems realistic for the Knicks. 

Can the Knicks shock the world with a playoff series win? Only time will tell.

Contact Adam Covey at [email protected]