The New York Knicks are in a precarious position. They won 50 games and secured the second-seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. But there is also an on-going debate about their chances of advancing beyond the first-round, which is unusual for a second-seed.  Still the Knicks know better than anyone what they are capable of, and they should feel good about their chances in the first-round and beyond. In fact, New York could advance as far as the NBA Finals this season. And if they do, it will be because of a select few X-factors.

The thing about the Knicks’ X-factors is you can really cite anyone and everyone in their rotation as playing a significantly important role. Everyone from Jalen Brunson to Precious Achiuwa contributes, and everyone who touches the floor has to play well for New York to succeed.

Jalen Brunson

Still, Brunson is so important that we can’t write this without speaking to exactly how valuable he is. Brunson sets the tone for New York, and advancing in the postseason will require that he play great. Fortunately, that’s not an uncommon occurrence.

Looking at outcomes and how they correlate with Brunson’s scoring outbursts is the easiest way to see his impact. Specifically, Brunson scored 30 or more points 36 times this season (!!!), and New York went 25-11 in those games. Furthermore, the Knicks went an eye-popping 9-2 when he scores 40 or more. So, that’s one easy way for the Knicks to succeed. 

OG Anunoby

Chicago Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan (11) looks to drive past New York Knicks forward OG Anunoby
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

But the Knicks require more than just Brunson. OG Anunoby's presence is also very clearly instrumental. Since adding Anunoby, the Knicks are 20-3 in games in which he plays — and they are only 13-14 without him.

Examining Anunoby’s impact from a statistical standpoint is another way to justify his inclusion here. On the whole, he posted an aggregate +353 in his minutes with New York, and he easily posted the best +/- per 100 possessions (+22.1) on the team of those who regularly log minutes).

Anunoby’s defensive versatility and ability to impact the offense without handling the ball too much is incredibly valuable. The six-foot-seven-inch wing will probably spend time defending Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris, and Kyle Oubre Jr., and Nicolas Batum — and possibly even Joel Embiid. And he’ll probably do a great job on all of them. 

Isaiah Hartenstein

Hartenstein is another key contributor to whom we should call attention. His first season with the Knicks was spent figuring out how he fit— and Mitchell Robinson’s injury sped up his timeline doing so. But once he figured it out, there was no looking back. 

Hartenstein’s passing and versatility has been a breath of fresh air; however, it’s his rebounding that’s had the biggest impact. Put simply, when Hartenstein collects a lot of rebounds, New York wins.

The Knicks are an impressive 16-8 when Hartenstein grabs 10 or more rebounds. That’s not only a great statistic, but it also happened often enough where New York should be comfortable with its likelihood. And before you object to the idea that 24 games qualifies as often, remember that Hartenstein’s Achilles injury limited him for much of the last two months of the season. 

Furthermore, Hartenstein will be even more important in his team’s first-round match-up given that slowing down the reigning NBA MVP will his responsibility as of tip-off tomorrow.

Ultimately the Knicks should be just fine if Brunson scores 30 or more points, Hartenstein grabs 10 or more rebounds, and OG Anunoby plays. While that’s technically a tall task, it’s not unthinkable. As mentioned above, Brunson scored 30 or more in nearly half of the games in which he appeared this season, Hartenstein grabbed 10 or more rebounds in eight of the Knicks’ last 18 games, and Anunoby played 25 or more minutes in each of New York’s final six games.

Still, if the Knicks are going to make a deep playoff run, they’ll need all that — are more. Will they get enough for their X-factors (and others)? We’ll find out soon enough.