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It’s Still Early !!
We are only 6 games into the season so it is way too early to come to conclusions. Knick fans thought the team was going to overachieve after winning 3 of their 4 first games. But are now depressed after consecutive losses to the Bucks and the Cavs. Especially after Donovan Mitchell turned into Steph Curry for one night.
But I am hear to tell you that if you are going to judge the success of the season based on win-loss record, you will be disappointed. The fact is that the entire Eastern Conference got better this offseason. So while the Knicks did upgrade the roster, it wasn’t enough to overtake anyone as no teams have ‘aged out‘ or are outright ‘tanking‘. Because of these factors the Knicks will have a hard time being much better than a .500 team.
What matters most is how you play
But that is fine, because the reality is that there was nothing the Knicks could have done in the offseason to turn this team into a contender. They did what they could have done, the next best thing, get gradually better. If you look at the positive, it’s clear that this Knick team is a lot better than last season’s. While they might finish with a similar record, this team got younger and better, so this is a roster you can build up, so that is a huge accomplishment.
The Knicks continue to position themselves to be in a place to acquire top-end talent, and that should be the theme for this season; just play the right way and trust that good things will eventually happen.
What I like about these Knicks
There is a lot I like about the 2022-23 Knicks because all the concerns I had going into the season don’t seem to be an issue. Let me list them out by priority.
Randle played horribly last season and turning into the most hated player on the team which in turned his contract into a negative asset. But Leon didn’t panic and trade Julius when his value was at an all-time low. Instead he trusted the player that used to be his client. Julius Randle looked in the mirror and changed his game. He has played within himself, been unselfish and is giving good effort on defense. Randle’s value is on the rise again and no longer looks like a liability. Julius has not only improved as a player, but also a person.
Then there is other high paid vet on the team. But unlike Randle, I felt Fournier got a raw deal last season. Expectations were a little unrealistic since he was the 2nd highest paid player on the team. Fournier struggled due to chemistry issues and bad point guard play. However, this season Fournier looks like he has settled into his role and is benefiting from improved playing with Brunson.
Speaking of Brunson, the Knicks’ big offseason acquisition which got overshadowed by the Donovan Mitchell trade rumors. It looked like the Knicks overpaid for Brunson, giving a player that didn’t start until the 2nd half of last season a 4year/$104M contract seemed desperate. It was especially troubling when you consider that Leon Rose and Brunson are practically family, it felt like nepotism. But in fact, it has been quite the opposite. Jalen has looked great as the Knick’s floor general. Aside from Derrick Rose, he is the only other point guard that understands exactly how to run Coach Thibodeau’s offense. Jalen might not be an elite point guard, but is the best point guard the Knicks have had in almost 30 years, since Derek Harper. Another point guard that used to play for the Dallas Mavericks.
Speaking of Derrick Rose, I was leery of bringing him back for another season. Felt he was done and that the Knicks were better off letting IQ and Deuce handle the backup point guard duties. But holding on to Rose has been the right decision. Aside from playing really well and has provided great leadership. The players respect him and just like Brunson, he is an extension of Thibs. The Knicks are one of the few teams that has great point guard play for all 48 minutes.
I am not going to lie, I was a little worried that Mitch was going to change now that he finally got paid. But on the contrary, he is so grateful to the Knicks for taking care of him that he is giving the team all out effort. His play has been nothing short of dominant on the offensive boards and on defense by blocking every shot in sight.
Staying on the Center position. The Knicks other free agent signing was a great under the radar move. Hartenstein has already proven to be a great compliment to Mitch, shoring up the Center position. Hartenstein is a major upgrade at backup Center over Nerlens Noel. He allows the team to play a different style since he can stretch the floor. When you look around the NBA you see a lot of contending teams that wished they had Hartenstein but couldn’t afford him since they are over the cap. All they could offer was the mid-level exception, $6.5M. Knicks on the other hand were able to offer slightly more, $8.0M per year since they were under the cap. The Knicks now have a player that makes their offense more dynamic and can cover for Mitch whenever he is in foul trouble or misses games due to injury.
When the Knicks traded for Reddish last season I was excited. In my mind it was a low risk/high reward move. However, the pressure got to Cam in the preseason and he started to force things. Luckily, the Quentin Grimes injury has turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It gave Cam another opportunity to prove himself. He has played really well and made a clutch shot at the buzzer against Memphis in the season opener to send the game to overtime. Reddish has turned himself into another young asset on roster full of promising young players.
The Knicks’ assets have greatly increased in value since this summer. The franchise is in a way better position to pull off a major trade during the season or in the summer of 2023. Last summer Randle, Fournier, and Reddish didn’t have much trade value which worked against them in the Donovan Mitchell trade talks. But that is no longer the case. There will be contenders that would be interested in acquiring most of the players on our roster.