2023-24 NBA Season Preview: New York Knicks

Published October 19, 2023, 11:00 AMPolo Bustamante

Can Brunson lead the Knicks to a top four berth this season?

The NBA is back! Just like your favorite superhero story, the league brings fun, entertainment, and a lot of uncanny subplots to unpack. That’s why NBA.com Philippines decided to preview the new season comic-book style. We pick out fantastic characters that will take the stage and new amazing arcs to watch out for. Bang! Pow! Boom! Let’s go!

What’s their superpower?

When you think of a Tom Thibodeau-led team, you automatically think of the menacing defensive teams he’s helmed in the past. But last season’s New York Knicks weren't quite in the same mold.

The Knicks were one of the top offensive teams in the league, scoring 117.8 points per 100 possessions, good for third-best in the league. Taking a look at that number you’d think the Knicks were the Sacramento Kings of the East, a fast-paced team that had the scoreboard buzzing. In reality, they were an offensive juggernaut but in the most Thibs way possible.

The Knicks were a deliberate offensive team that took care of the ball and pounded the offensive boards to maximize possessions. They ranked 25th in pace, averaging only 97.1 possessions per 48 minutes. But they only turned the ball over on 11.4 percent of their possessions (5th) and nabbed offensive rebounds on 28.3 percent of their shots (2nd).

What the Knicks lacked in flair, they made up for in discipline. They took what was available to them. That’s not necessarily a bad approach, given that they were a top four team in the East for most of last season.

What’s their kryptonite?

That lack of creativity ended up costing the Knicks a seat in the East Finals when they fell to the Miami Heat in the second round. The Knicks’ offense became too predictable, allowing the Heat to easily adjust their defense to whatever it was that New York was doing.

Yes, Jalen Brunson was awesome in the Heat series, averaging 31 points on 50 percent shooting. That was out of necessity because Miami shut down the rest of the team. Julius Randle was limited to just 18 points on 41 percent, while RJ Barrett managed to score 20 a game but on a 42 percent clip. No other Knick managed to average double figures in the series.

The Knicks are a force when their weapons are firing on all cylinders. But what happens when things get clogged up? Who else can they lean on?

Who is their biggest hero?

It was no secret that the Knicks wanted Jalen Brunson to be their lead guard. After years of playing second-fiddle, Brunson finally got his chance to shine on Broadway. And he didn’t disappoint. He averaged 24.0 points and 6.2 assists in the 68 games he played last season.

His arrival gave the stagnant Knicks offense new life. Brunson was the dream guard for a coach like Tom Thibodaeu. He didn’t freestyle too much and ran the system point for point. But that didn’t mean he couldn’t take over games. If needed, he was able to grind down opposing defenders, get to his spots, and score.

It’s a shame Brunson missed out on an All-Star berth last season. That only means that he has an axe to grind and is out to make a statement this coming season.

Who is their biggest villain?

Randle had a bounce-back season last year. He returned to All-Star form averaging a 25-10-4 line. He partnered up with Brunson nicely, and because of that, had one of his best years efficiency-wise, scoring at a 45.9 percent rate and reducing his turnovers to just 2.8 per game.

Even with those great numbers, a lot of Knicks fans were unhappy with Randle and wanted him out of the team. His constant complaining about everything – the refs, the calls against him, his role, his possessions – all of that has weighed heavily on fans of the team. 

Randle’s growing discontent is turning out to be a big storyline, one that could prove to be a distraction that the Knicks don’t need next season.

How does their story play out?

The top two teams in the East are pretty much a lock. With loaded rosters, the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks will battle it out for the top seed of the conference. After them it’s a wide-open race, especially with the issue between the Philadelphia 76ers and James Harden. That opens up an opportunity for the Knicks to do what they weren’t able to do last season: earn a top four berth.

The Knicks are running back largely the same roster as last season with a key addition in Donte DiVincenzo. They’re relying on continuity, which is never a bad idea. If Brunson and Randle can continue to play like All-Stars while the rest of their young key players take a step forward, it’s not a reach to see New York as the third best team in the East.