As the Utah Jazz and Cleveland Cavaliers hammered out the details and finalized a trade for Donovan Mitchell, it was the New York Knicks who came out looking like the real losers. The Knicks were the perceived front-runners for the former Jazz star for quite some time and did an excellent job collecting assets to make a trade possible when an opportunity like this occurred. While Knicks fans are rightfully disappointed after the seeming certainty of the deal, it is not the end of the world.
The backcourt duo of Jalen Brunson and Donovan Mitchell would have had some notable defensive issues due to each of them standing just 6-foot-1. In fairness to the Knicks, they also put together a strong offer for Mitchell even with this being the case. At the end of the day, the Knicks kept their assets and can remain on the lookout for the next disgruntled star to become available. In the meantime, here are three predictions on what to expect from the Knicks in the 2022-23 season.
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3. Jalen Brunson averages 18+ PPG
Amid all the frustrations of missing out on Mitchell, it should not be forgotten the prize that the Knicks did land this offseason. While Jalen Brunson may not be the superstar-caliber player that is desired, he is still a positive contributing player on a contract that will age much better than the perception of it is. Expect Brunson to hear the noise and be ready to deliver when the time comes.
When looking at his scoring with the Mavericks, Brunson set a career high last season with 16.3 points per game. He also took his game to a whole new level in the postseason, especially when the team was without Luka Doncic. During the playoffs, he tallied 21.6 points per game with the Mavs.
It is incredibly difficult to expect him to replicate this type of performance in a new location. However, it felt as if some of his success was Brunson figuring his own game out, which is an extremely positive sign moving forward. Expect the Villanova product to carry over this into next year and score 18 or more points per game.
2. Quentin Grimes more than doubles scoring average
The Knicks being stingy with Quentin Grimes in Donovan Mitchell trade talks has to feel pretty great for the 22-year-old. There has been a ton of positive buzz surrounding the Houston product this offseason. Expect Grimes to take a massive step forward in his sophomore season and to see a much greater opportunity on the court.
In total, he averaged 6.0 points, 2.0 rebounds, and an assist across the 17.1 minutes per game he played as a rookie. While this is a fairly low bar to be measured against, expect Grimes to make a much more notable impact for the Knicks in the 2022-23 season. His hard-nosed defense should be appealing to Tom Thibodeau and provide the opportunity to get on the court. He clearly is valued very highly by the organization and will look to prove why this season.
1. Knicks make play-in tournament
The Eastern Conference is loaded this year. The Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, and Brooklyn Nets each have an argument for the top spot in the conference. Beyond this, the Cavs just got better by landing Mitchell and have a ton of young talent in the process of taking a leap. You can also never count out the Miami Heat, and the Toronto Raptors are a frightening matchup as they continue to improve. The Atlanta Hawks added Dejounte Murray this offseason and are in win-now mode, while the Chicago Bulls are getting back Lonzo Ball The bottom line is that the East is going to be a tight race.
It is difficult to see the Knicks finishing in the top six based on the number of strong teams there are. The addition of Jalen Brunson makes them better, but not to the extent of becoming true contenders. A successful season for New York should be looked at by making the play-in tournament and finishing slightly above the .500 mark.
The Knicks have done an excellent job putting the infrastructure in place to improve greatly, but the job is not done. Knicks fans will need to continue being patient as the roster develops. It appears the franchise is finally heading in the right direction based on the behind-the-scenes moves they have made to collect assets. They also showed restraint by not overpaying for Mitchell in a way that would have wasted these assets. The long-term hopes for the Knicks are still alive and well, but for now, expectations should be tempered.