3 reasons the 2022-23 Knicks are built for playoff success
As the Knicks look increasingly likely to finish as a Top 6 seed and avoid the play-in tournament, projecting how they might fare in the playoffs is already a point of discussion around those following the team. Lingering is the ghost of the 2021 playoffs, in which a similarly upstart, exciting Knicks team got vamoosed from the first round in short order.
We shouldn’t expect a repeat, however. Here are three reasons this year’s Knicks squad is built to succeed in the playoffs:
The Knicks don’t play more than a nine-man rotation, and may even shrink it further come the postseason, but they’re nine deep in good NBA players with some sleeper options further down. Few teams can match this level of depth, as demonstrated by big bench performances from New York throughout the season.
Outside of the usual starters, you have three starter-caliber options in Immanuel Quickley, Isaiah Hartenstein and Josh Hart. Obi Toppin has those games too, but could be the odd man out come the playoffs.
Even deeper on the bench are Miles McBride and Evan Fournier, who maybe shouldn’t be relied on too heavily but bring value in a pinch. The former is a defensive ace at the guard spot, the latter a knockdown shooter until this season.
Having guys down the bench you can rely on may be more of a regular season advantage, but injuries, ejections and other anomalies occur in the playoffs that require new blood. The Knicks are well equipped to handle any of those situations, and have a consistently strong eight-man rotation at the ready.
Maybe it won’t count for much, but the Knicks are coming into the playoffs with many key returning faces from 2021. Meanwhile, many of their foes in the East haven’t been through a series with each other.
Lost in their win totals, the Boston Celtics played this season under a new head coach, and are looking a bit different than their Finals team last season. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ young guns got booted from the play-in last year, but haven’t been tested in a series, let alone with Donovan Mitchell.
The Knicks may have a big addition in Jalen Brunson, but the rest of the team, including three starters and Quickley, have played a huge amount of minutes together for years now. Brunson is postseason certified fresh anyway, after a conference finals trip with Dallas last year.
This continuity impacts on- and off-court chemistry, possibly evidenced in the Knicks’ low turnover rate. They’re Top 5 in the league in not throwing the ball away, somewhat due to having shared experience, knowing where each other likes the ball.
That kind of team basketball IQ should go a long way in the postseason.
Shot and hustle profiles
Offenses often don’t replicate the high-scoring three-point free-for-all we see in the regular season come playoff time. Defenses tighten up and scheme teams into slower paces and the mid-range.
It’s a good thing the Knicks love slowly beating teams to death from that area. Opponents will try to put New York in uncomfortable positions, but generally speaking, the postseason tends to be when the league’s best threats from just outside the paint thrive.
A large part of the Knicks shot diet comes from the 10-16 foot range, where Julius Randle hits 44 percent of his shots, Brunson 46.8 percent and Quickley 48.4 percent, strong numbers. If they can continue to be prolific there and make the right passes when defenses collapse, they’ll be in good shape.
If the shots don’t fall, they can remain competitive through their effort. This Knicks team is notoriously tough, physical and annoying, collecting offensive rebounds left-and-right and making little winning plays all over the court.
That time for peskiness always translates well to the playoffs, where it can often come down to which team wants it more.