The Real New York Knicks Will Re-Emerge Soon

Scott Engel
Last Updated: Nov 3, 2023

Heading into their first NBA In-Season Tournament game on Nov. 3, the New York Knicks have lost three of their first five games.

Dropping the second game of a back-to-back series against the Cleveland Cavaliers, last year’s playoff opponent whom they ousted, left an aura of disappointment and frustration around the team.

Cleveland was undermanned yet bounced back from a loss in the first game of two to outplay New York. Many observers consider the Knicks a second-tier team in the Eastern Conference. The oddsmakers don’t quite view New York as a top-five team in the East, as it has the sixth-best odds to win the NBA’s Eastern Conference at +1800 on DraftKings Sportsbook.

Even if the Knickerbockers are not on the same level as the elite teams in the East, they are certainly better than what we have seen early this season, although many fans of the team are already irritated by the sluggish start.

In the NFL, reacting to single games is more understandable since there are only 17 games in a season, and it makes a lot less sense in baseball, with 162. Making judgments about NBA outlooks falls more in line with the baseball angle, as a five-game sample at the outset certainly does not define a seasonal outlook.

Here are eight prime reasons for Knicks fans to expect better results and overall play soon.

Eight Reasons to Expect New York Knicks’ Turnaround

1. This Is Essentially The Same Team As Last Season: Most Knicks followers know this already but need a reminder that Donte DiVincenzo was New York’s only notable offseason acquisition. While the front office is exhibiting a patient approach to molding the team into a bonafide contender, obviously they believed that after winning 47 games and a playoff series, the current Knicks squad is good enough to at least replicate that type of success and won’t finish under or near .500.

2. The Shooting Will Surely Improve: A few points made in this article will work off the first item, as the Knicks have been guilty of creating too many loud clanging sounds early this season. New York is last in the NBA in field goal percentage (40%) after shooting 47% from the field last season, and the players on this team simply aren’t going to continue with their current efforts to rename the team “New York Bricks.”

3. Jalen Brunson Is In a Temporary Funk: Many shots that fell for Brunson in his first outstanding season with the Knicks simply are not dropping in the bucket so far, as he is shooting 37% from the field, well below his career mark of 49. The most impactful acquisition since Carmelo Anthony doesn’t get fazed by extra defensive attention, and still makes many tough and clutch shots when he is on his game. We will certainly see the “real” Brunson again soon. The early-season cold spell is just not sustainable for a player of his established caliber.

4. Julius Randle Should Find His Groove Again: A high percentage of the Knicks fan base is hard on Randle, as they seemingly expect him to be a prime catalyst on a deep playoff run. The reality is that he can be a key performer as a top complement to Brunson and another eventual significant acquisition if Randle remains in New York in the seasons ahead.

The 28-year-old is more “star’ than “superstar” and fans who came down on Randle after his performance in last season’s playoffs have hopefully realized that he played through an ankle injury. Still, the two-time All-Star does not look like himself so far this season, as he has been hesitant to take open shots, and has forced others, and while he has fed his teammates well at times, Randle should inevitably regain much of his better form.

You don’t expect Randle to continue to shoot 27.6% from the floor and average 13.2 points per game, do you? Even the toughest critic of No. 30 won’t say so, while needing to realize the Knicks are still a player away from being among the best in the East, and should not expect Randle to carry a team to a title run heavily on his own while accepting his positives.

5. R.J. Barrett May Deliver His Best Season Yet: Barrett is dealing with a sore knee, yet once Brunson and Randle function more like their true selves, the fifth-year man who was drafted No. 3 overall might finally emerge as a major third piece in the offense. In the first four games of the season, Barrett has appeared to be more confident and authoritative than ever before, and he might be headed for a career season in 2022-23.

While the cold starts of Brunson and Randle are uncharacteristic, the early version of Barrett we have seen in four games looks like he could further elevate the team with his newfound stronger court presence. He is shooting 45.3% from the field, 42.9% from three-point range, and 81% from the free-throw line, which would all be career bests.

6. Mitchell Robinson Is Also Showing More Promise: The New York center has always been valuable when available, but foul trouble and injuries have sometimes prevented him from functioning as a reliable presence. Early this season, Robinson is averaging 1.8 personal fouls per game, compared to 2.7 in each of the last two campaigns, and he has become a larger presence in the paint.

The New York pivot is leading the NBA in offensive rebounds at six per game, and his 11.4 rebounds per game easily soars past the career mark of 7.9. Robinson has eight blocks in his last four games, and while the 2018 second-round draft pick has often been a rock under the hoop, he is more active than ever early on.

7. The Second Unit Can Be A Big Strength: Immanuel Quickley continues to perform as one of the premier sixth men in the league, and Josh Hart is an established significant contributor to the team’s success. DiVincenzo is working below his career averages in most key categories so far, yet he will be a real spark plug and fan favorite once he settles in.

Isaiah Hartenstein has started off the season well, too. His tenacity has not been completely reflected in the early numbers, and he has found a home in New York as a high-motor guy who chips in wherever needed and is willing to bang with anyone on defense.

8. Hunger Can Spur Impatience: The Knicks are the most universally loved pro sports team in the New York market, as it is much more of a two-team town in the NFL, MLB, and the NHL. The Giants, Yankees, and Rangers are more popular than their neighbors, but the Nets clearly have the smallest pro sports fan base of any New York team when compared to their closest residents.

It has been 50 years since the Knicks won it all and almost a quarter century since they were a true contender, and a championship from them might spur the biggest unified sports celebration ever seen in New York. The decision-makers are progressively building toward that eventual goal, so a five-game stretch at the beginning of the season isn’t going to blow the boat off its careful course.

The current version of the Knicks is a proven respectable playoff team. Fans should enjoy the journey, even though so many years of frustration over the past two decades can lead to natural exasperation at times, and a few weeks from now, the 2-3 start may be forgotten.

Scott Engel is a past winner of the New York Knicks High School Sports Writing Award.


Scott Engel

Scott Engel is a Senior Sports Writer at The Game Day. Previously he was at and The Athletic. His work is also featured at RotoBaller and on Scott is a host on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. He is an inaugural member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association's Hall of Fame. Scott is a four-time FSWA award winner and a 13-time finalist. He was an Associate Editor and featured writer at and his career began at CBS SportsLine, where he was a Senior Writer and Managing Editor. Scott was the Managing Director at RotoExperts.

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