The 2022-23 season was one of significant improvement for the New York Knicks. After missing the playoffs the season prior, they won 47 games and then very impressively knocked off a good team in the Cleveland Cavaliers in five games. Jalen Brunson's career season in his first with the team was a large reason for that, while a number of other players came on strongly too.
They'll be looking to once again feature in the postseason in 2023-24, and ideally even more prominently, but like all teams there are some questions marks surrounding them. These are three burning questions the Knicks need to answer ahead of the upcoming season.
3. Who is the back-up center?
No one has ever complained about having too much depth, but with the Knicks' current triumvirate of centers who can't play any other position, a decision needs to be made at some point during the season about who is getting minutes. They'll be hoping Mitchell Robinson can continue his defensive dominance while taking his offensive game to another level this season, while behind him they've got both Isaiah Hartenstein and Jericho Sims waiting in the wings.
Hartenstein is, for the time being, the more established NBA player and proved himself a capable back-up and even starter when required last season, but Sims has more untapped potential. Like Robinson, his offensive output has been limited to say the least on the NBA court to date, but also like Robinson, he is wildly athletic and has defensive potential in spades. Do the Knicks opt to try to develop their bouncy young big man, or let the more experienced Hartenstein take the reins when Robinson is on the bench?
2. Can they take their defense to the next level?
Unusually for a Tom Thibodeau coached team, it was on offense where the Knicks really excelled last season. Defensively, they were subpar, with a defensive rating of 114.2 good for only 19th in the league. In fairness they improved that substantially in the playoffs to 107.8, but that was against the Cavs and Heat, two teams not exactly renowned for their scoring.
The Knicks scored 117.0 points per 100 possessions last season, the fourth best in the league, so they've already shown what they can do at that end of the floor. If they, like nearly every other team Thibodeau has coached in his life, can get the defensive rating to better than average and ideally top ten in the league, then this team could very easily find themselves with home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
1. Are the Conference Semi-Finals this team's ceiling?
This is the biggest question that the Knicks have to answer heading into the 2023-24 season. There is something in this roster, there's no doubt about – they showed that last season, in particular during their playoff series against the Cavaliers. With Jalen Brunson running the point and a couple more guards with plenty of potential in Quentin Grimes and Immanuel Quickley, combined with Julius Randle, RJ Barrett and their aforementioned center trio, this is certainly a team capable of winning more often than they lose.
But just how far can they go? That Cavs series was really impressive, but that's against a team in a similar position to them – good enough to make the playoffs, but a tier below the best of the best. The question the Knicks need to answer is, is this team good enough to compete with the likes of the Bucks, Celtics and Sixers? They'll be expecting to make the playoffs again this season and if they don't it will be a major failure, but beyond that, just how far they can go remains to be seen.