What the Knicks need to do for their season to be considered a success

Hace 3 meses

What the Knicks need to do for their season to be considered a success

Projecting what’s in store for the rest of the way.

Projecting what’s in store for the rest of the way.

As a New York sports fan, it’s always been hard to keep things in perspective.

Besides the Yankees, the city hasn’t seen a whole lot of winning lately. The Knicks just won their first playoff series in ten years. Football is atrocious, postseason hockey has been mostly futile, and the Mets are the Mets (the Nets don’t even make the list). There’s just not much to look forward to outside of the hardwood, and the Knicks are the talk of the town right now, determined to change New York’s public image this season once and for all.

Naturally, with the Knicks looking competent, there’s been a buzz surrounding this team. The media circus has already used up every slant and angle towards the team you can think of. Now Lebron’s coming to the play at the Garden? Embiid? Even Giannis? The Knicks are favorites to come out of the East?

R-E-L-A-X. Relax.

It’s easy to get caught up in Jalen Brunson’s meteoric rise. It’s easy to get lost in the team’s chemistry, or the bench playing incredibly through injury, or Isaiah Hartenstein and DDV proving themselves as two of the best value signings in the league. I wouldn’t blame you if you thought that Leon Rose is the best GM in the league, and that it’s a matter of months, not years, until Julius Randle has a championship ring to show for his ups and downs in the city of New York.

Trust me. I get it.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t blame you if you were in the ‘same old Knicks’ department. We saw what happened with Aaron Rodgers and the Jets. Sometimes the name on the front of the jersey is more important than the name on the back. Some franchises just don’t have good things happen to them. The Knicks are one of them.

But with the All-Star break coming to an end tonight, it’s important to take an objective look at where the Knicks are at, and what to expect for the rest of the year, both regular season and postseason. Let’s take some inventory.

New York sits at 33-22, good enough for 4th in the East, behind Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Boston. They’re four games out of the two seed, but conversely, they’re only three games out of the seven seed, which is the cutoff for the play-in tournament.

Overshadowing all of this, however, are the question marks surrounding the returns of Julius Randle, OG Anunoby, and Mitchell Robinson. All three were, at points, rumored to be out for the duration of the year, but all three should see action on the court again. The question is how soon can it happen, and whether or not the Knicks can remain in a position to make a deep playoff run in the meantime.

Bogjan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks were both acquired at the trade deadline to try and bolster scoring off the bench. Both have averaged double digits since arriving here, albeit in just three games. If they buy into the defensive intensity that Coach Thibs preach, we’re looking at a complete playoff roster.

Stellar play from Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo, Isaiah Hartenstein, and Precious Achiuwa have kept the Knicks afloat as of late. Is it sustainable? Who knows. With 27 games remaining on the schedule, things could go wrong. If that happens, this would go down as one of the most haunting seasons in a long time, full of what-ifs and hypotheticals that would rain down for years to come.

So… what constitutes success and failure at this point?

Looking at the rest of the regular season, the Knicks would have to win around 15-17 games to ensure a top 4 seed. Winning about half of the remaining games should guarantee a top 6 seed, and it goes without saying that anything short of a top 6 playoff berth would unquestionably be a disappointment.

Vegas, who time after time knows a lot more than we do, has a consensus over/under line on the Knicks winning 49.5 games. If the Knicks were to win fifty games, it would lock up a top-4 seed. Vegas believes it can happen. If Jalen Brunson stays healthy, so do I. And so should you.

There are two possible timelines I see unfolding in the future regarding the postseason. We have to use different measuring sticks to assess success and failure for each.

Timeline one is the heartbreaking one of the two.

The Knicks fade down the stretch, and limp to a six or seven seed in the East. I don’t think this happens - but it’s possible. Hell, maybe they even play well in this scenario. Maybe they stay afloat and hold onto the four line. The point being: reinforcements never come. Robinson, Anunoby, and perhaps even Randle get shut down.

If this is the reality the Knicks face entering the postseason, then advancing out of the first round would be a big win for the franchise. Brunson has the willpower and talent to win playoff games by himself, and the supporting cast has shown they are capable of stepping up when needed. If it’s just Brunson, a second round appearance would give the front office and fans alike belief that a fully healthy squad can make a run. Getting bounced in the first round might not constitute failure, but a looming shadow over what could have been surely would leave a sour taste in the mouths of Knicks fans everywhere.

Timeline two is hopefully the timeline we’re set on right now.

Randle, Anunoby, and Robinson get healthy. The Knicks hold it down, playing .500 ball for the rest of the season. The third or fourth seed belongs to us, and things are clicking. The squad plays their best ball. DDV continues his run as a scorer, Randle exercises his playoff demons, the Robinson/Hartenstein duo terrorizes defenses, and Bogdanovic and Burks fit seamlessly into the bench unit.

We’re used to seeing everything go wrong. If everything goes right? All bets are off.

This is a team that could make a serious run in the East if things are clicking. At full health, this Knicks team is a tough out for any opposing squad. One playoff series win would mean that the year isn’t a failure. Two playoff series wins would mean that the season is a success. Three playoff series wins? You’re in the NBA finals.

This could be the year the Knicks make a run. If not, they’re in a strong position for the future. My advice to you? Sit back, relax, and enjoy a legitimately excellent season for the New York Knicks.

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