After missing the play-in tournament last season with a 37-45 record, not much was expected from the New York Knicks coming into this season.
They had somehow managed to snag rising guard Jalen Brunson from the Dallas Mavericks, but many figured they still had a mismatched roster that lacked several components needed for a winning team.
But after starting 10-13, the Knicks have kicked things into high gear, winning 16 of their last 22 games, and they currently sit in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, meaning if the season ended today they would make the playoffs outright.
Yes, New York has beaten mostly bad and mediocre teams during this stretch, but it has been winning most of these games pretty easily, and while it isn’t a contender, people cannot overlook this squad anymore.
There have been three main factors to the Knicks’ turnaround.
1. RJ Barrett
After signing a big extension months ago, RJ Barrett started this season off poorly, as he was struggling to shoot over 40 percent from the field.
But since the beginning of December, he has been at 45.7 percent overall and 40.0 percent from 3-point range while averaging 20.9 points per game.
Barrett is starting to tap into the potential he displayed during his time at Duke University.
2. Jalen Brunson
Brunson has been as good as advertised for the Knicks, and he too is proving he’s worthy of the huge contract he got himself.
The New Jersey native is putting up an efficient 22.3 points and 6.4 assists per game this season, and he has topped the 30-point mark nine times already.
Jalen Brunson’s last 8 Games:
27 PTS – 5 REB – 4 AST
34 PTS – 8 REB – 8 AST
34 PTS – 3 REB – 4 AST
44 PTS – 7 REB- 4 AST
26 PTS – 5 REB – 8 AST
38 PTS – 7 REB – 6 AST
24 PTS – 4 REB – 6 AST
23 PTS – 3 REB – 11 AST
All-Star. 🗣😤 pic.twitter.com/esIuuteyG8
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) January 15, 2023
3. Julius Randle
Julius Randle had an off year last season after a breakout campaign that saw him make the 2021 NBA All-Star Game.
But he is approaching that level of play again, as he is averaging 24.5 points on 46.0 percent shooting, 10.5 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game.
The Knicks don’t quite have a true Big 3, but this trio of studs appears to be taking them back to the playoffs, which will mean there will be some excitement at Madison Square Garden this April.