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Far Fetched Friday: The Knicks Make It Back to the Playoffs
By: Khaqan Khan
After a strange season last year, where Julius Randle would let the home fans know how miserable he was during the games, the Knicks are reinvigorated with restored hope. The Knicks signed Jalen Brunson, cleared minutes for young guys, and didn't do a blockbuster trade! With the team finally having a point guard and the chance for the young players to show what they can do, the Knicks will find themselves back in the playoffs after missing out last year.
Welcome back to Far-Fetched Friday, where every Friday we give you a bold prediction that we believe will come to fruition. This Friday, we look at the funniest franchise in the NBA.
Last year, the league caught up to the Knicks after the Atlanta Hawks exposed them in the 2021 playoffs. The Knicks' answer to a desperate need for a point guard was signing hometown hero Kemba Walker and letting Alec Burks play the position. No wonder Randle was miserable. Everyone knew how to guard him. He's at his best in isolation, but if teams can shadow him while forcing him to create for the team, he can't be himself. Derrick Rose and Immanuel Quickly are decent complimentary guards who provide scoring for second units but aren't consistent table setters. With their central hub for offense stalled, the Knicks failed to find different ways to win games.
The team decided not to fire Tom Thibbedu despite his stubbornness not to play young players. Obi Toppin, Cam Reddish, Miles McBride, and Quiten Grimes found themselves on the bench watching Kemba Walker, Evan Fournier, Alec Burks, and Taj Gibson take their development minutes away. The front office responded by trading Walker, Burks, and Nerlens Noel to Detroit and letting Taj Gibson walk (lol). Evidently, the front office has sent Thibs a message to play the young guys, and rightfully so. And this pre-season, Obi Toppin has seemed to turn the corner after promising end-of-season showings. McBride and Grimes have shown potential to be draft steals, giving the team a different feel. The jury is still out on Reddish, but you always take the chance on a tall-athletic wing with the ability to create his shot. Hopefully, he finds his way to a role next to Barrett and Randle.
The Knicks are committed to a specific timeline, evident by their splash signing of Jalen Brunson. After years of misused cap space, the Knicks finally got their point guard. There's no doubt Brunson is a gamer. He's been a winner everywhere he played and has shown his elevated capabilities in the playoffs. For a 6'1" point guard, it is remarkable how often and well he operates in the paint. For this Knicks team, that changes everything. A guard consistently placing pressure on the defense opens room up for your shooters, thus giving Randle more space to operate. Brunson's attitude will inject the Knicks with the energy they need to return to their feisty identity. There is a good chance Knick fans will grow impatient quickly when they see the counting stats for Brunson, but over the course of the season, Brunson will show he's worth every penny. (Not to mention, the cap will shoot up in the next few years, so Brunson's deal isn't as costly as it seems.)
→ Also, I just wanted to put this out there. Isaiah Hartenstein can be a sneaky good signing. His ability to set screens and play make out the post might add a different dimension to the Knick's rotation. Anyways...
Once again, the front office showed their competency by not reaching for a splash trade that would have been a lateral move. There were a few weeks when it seemed that Donovan Mitchell was heading to the Knicks, and I'm glad he didn't. Mitchell is a great player, but he's not what the Knicks need at that price. Adding him to this team by way of RJ Barrett would not have moved the needle enough to warrant that price.
Extending Barrett, and rolling over their assets showed newfound maturity for the Knicks' front office (RJ Barrett Became The First New York Knicks First-Round Pick To Sign An Extension With The Team Since 1999) because every good front office knows that if you wait enough, another star player will pop up, especially if your team is competitive. Also, by trading for Mitchell, the Knicks would have brought on unrealistic expectations, thus thwarting their timeline. In the best-case scenario, if the team isn't competing, Brunson's play at point guard raises the value of the other players making their better assets. Or the team does show signs of being good. Then that would allow the Knicks to make more mid-sized trades instead of going for big splash trades. By the trade deadline, it's conceivable players like Bradley Beal, Deandre Ayton, or even Damian Lillard become available. Even players a tier below, like Gordan Hayward, Terry Rozier, or Jakob Poetl, could be cheaper options that make a difference. The Knicks' sneaky good young core and draft capital will put them in a position to be relevant for years to come.
I am excited to see those fans back in a playoff environment. I hope Julius Randle can find his happiness back playing in MSG. The Knicks have stayed within themselves to reinvigorate their team. The additions of Jalen Brunson and the new runway the young players have combined with the development of RJ Barrett and Julius Randle, will propel the Knicks back into the playoffs. Every NBA fan should want this because it means we will have more Sidetalk videos with Knick fans outside of Madison Square Garden.
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