Coming into this season, not too many people outside of the Tri-state area were picking the New York Knicks to make the NBA playoffs.
But they finished the regular season with a 47-35 record and the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, which means there will be playoff basketball at Madison Square Garden just days from now.
Perhaps the biggest reason is the play of newcomer Jalen Brunson, who has just been named as one of the finalists for the league’s Most Improved Player award.
BREAKING: NBA Most Improved player of the year finalists, via @NBAPR pic.twitter.com/0udMIqya4x
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) April 14, 2023
Brunson first emerged as a stud last season when he helped Luka Doncic lead the Dallas Mavericks to a surprise upset of the top-seeded Phoenix Suns in the second round of the playoffs and a trip to the Western Conference Finals.
At the time, it was presumed he would re-sign with Dallas once free agency started, but instead, he quickly signed with the Knicks for $104 million over four years.
Plenty of pundits felt it was too much money for a player who had averaged 16.3 points and 4.8 assists a game during the 2021-22 campaign.
But he has seemingly justified that big contract by putting up 24.0 points and 6.2 assists per contest while shooting a career-high 41.6 percent from 3-point range this year.
He has started to make Knicks fans forget about their team’s failed pursuit of Donovan Mitchell, who is a native of the New York City area and is having a great season for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Ironically, Brunson and New York will face Mitchell’s Cavs in the first round of this year’s playoffs.NEXT: NBA Insider Gives An Injury Update On Julius Randle