3 things we learned from Knicks' 2023 NBA playoffs run

May 2, 2023; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) celebrates his three point shot against the Miami Heat during the first quarter of game two of the 2023 NBA Eastern Conference semifinal playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks' postseason run came to an end Friday night after a hard fought month of high-level basketball.

Here are three things we learned from their playoff run.

1. Jalen Brunson is a certified star

In case there was somehow any question left as to how successful a signing Brunson was for the Knicks, he took his game to a whole new level in the playoffs.

Averaging 27.8 points, 5.6 assists and 5 rebounds a night, Brunson was top 10 in postseason scoring, shooting 47.4 percent from the field, and cementing himself as a proven winner.

Brunson was undoubtedly the best and most reliable Knick in the playoffs. He led them in clutch scoring, hitting 63.6 percent of his shots with the game within five with five minutes to go.

When New York needed him most, he answered the call with 27 points to steal game one in Cleveland, 29 to go up 3-1 at home, then 30 and 38 in the Knicks' lone two wins against the Heat.

His “off nights” were just slightly less efficient 20-point outings.

He did all of this on an injured ankle, while taking the brunt of plenty of physicality, especially from Miami. He showed his 2022 run wasn’t a fluke, and he’s built to succeed on this big of a stage.

It wasn’t all perfect, as Miami targeted Brunson defensively effectively, and there were some stretches he tried to do too much offensively. Still, those go by the wayside when judging the larger picture, which suggests the Knicks have a tried and true playoff performer for years to come.

Apr 7, 2023; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) brings the ball up court against the New Orleans Pelicans during the first half at Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

2. RJ Barrett just made the leap

The version of Barrett fans have built up in their minds after the Knicks drafted him third overall, watched him put up a solid 2021 campaign and 2022 finish, has finally arrived.

It was a choppy trip to get here, but it couldn’t have happened at a better time. Despite a shaky regular season and poor first couple of playoff games, Barrett made his leap in time to close the Cleveland series and contribute to a competitive Miami series.

Barrett finished the playoffs averaging 19.3 points per night, shooting 43 percent from the field, and 33 percent on threes across eleven games.  

How’s he turned it around? Getting his catch-and-shoot threes on point has helped, but his overall decision-making and poise have accelerated in these last few weeks.

Barrett is choosing his spots better, getting to angles he knows he can finish well from, passing out to open shooters and doing a better job of leveraging his build to draw fouls.

Defensively, he’s been a plus, putting together the complete star package some were worried wouldn’t arise with Barrett.

The hope for the Knicks is this translates into next season and beyond, where Barrett can build off this impressive showing. He’s still only 22-years-old, suggesting plenty of growth remains, which could be franchise-defining for the Knicks.

Apr 9, 2023; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley (5) talks with head coach Tom Thibodeau during the second half against the Indiana Pacers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

3. The Knicks aren’t far from contention

A six-game exit in the second round would’ve been music to Knicks fans ears at the start of this season, following last year’s disappointing lottery appearance.

Besides being a large step forward, it serves as a benchmark for the franchise’s future goals, none of which eclipse winning a championship.

Given their performance this postseason, it’s hard to imagine the Knicks are more than one piece away from contention. They have three All-Star caliber players approaching or in their primes, and a number of depth pieces to fill out rotation spots or trade for upgrades.

With this current group, the Knicks dominated one of the league’s best regular-season teams and took a perennial contender down the stretch.

Assuming the right piece comes in, they can take that next step and make the conference finals and beyond.