Why the Knicks' 2022-23 season was a success, despite a disappointing playoff loss to the Heat
Getting bounced from the playoffs, no matter when and how, always hurts. It marks a momentary failure and often the end of a team as fans know it, with inevitable offseason changes around the corner.
Knicks fans may not be happy with dropping a second-round series to the Miami Heat in such a wide-open playoff bracket, but once the dust settles, it will become apparent how much of a success this season was a whole. New York exceeded expectations, developed its core talent, and cemented itself once again as a prominent franchise in the playoff picture.
Proper context is necessary when grading this Knicks season.
Oddsmakers penned their over/under at 38.5 wins, a mark ESPN and FiveThirtyEight also projected, and New York absolutely blew that away with a 47-35 record. Experts then largely predicted a Cleveland Cavaliers first-round victory, which the Knicks spoiled as well.
The headline should be New York demolished forecasts, but the story features much more than that. The developments made this season will shape this franchise for years to come.
It starts at the top with the signing of Jalen Brunson. Anybody who questioned the move or the price of it at the time is surely taking back those criticisms now.
Brunson was a legitimate All-NBA-worthy player this season, a performance that not only carried into the postseason, but stepped up too. He averaged 27.8 points, 5.6 assists and 4.9 rebounds in the playoffs, enters next season outside of the 50-highest salaries in the league, and has a declining contract.
The Knicks acquiring an All-Star who fits the system and culture perfectly is a humongous win on its own, but Brunson isn’t the only name to get excited about.
Julius Randle had his second All-NBA season in three years, a true redemption arc after struggling with his game and mental fortitude in 2022. He was hobbled this postseason, but still put in winning efforts, and should be a core piece moving forward.
Also coming up big was RJ Barrett, who may have had an up-and-down regular season and longer-term development, but shined on the biggest stage of his career. After a couple of down games in Cleveland, Barrett closed the postseason on an overall upswing, putting up 21.5 points a night, shooting 44.9 percent from the field 34 percent from deep in his last eight games.
As a reminder, Barrett’s still only 22 years old and signed an extension last summer to remain a Knick for the foreseeable future. Confidence in his growth is at an all-time high after this standout postseason performance, and his game can only go up from here.
At worst, this is the year the Knicks found themselves as a team -- 2021 was the precursor and 2022 the misstep, but this season was the culmination of culture-building, player development and front-office scheming of the past few years.
It’s now clear their three best players fit together, are each supremely talented and -- when correctly utilized and completely engaged -- create a competitive, grimy, tough-to-beat team. But the team doesn’t end with them.
Immanuel Quickley may not have had the ideal postseason, but that doesn’t diminish his leap and impact during the regular season. As the Knicks move forward and decide what prospects to pay or move on from, this year they found one worth investing in for the long-term.
Quickley put up career highs of 15 points per game on 44.8 percent shooting from the field, finishing second in Sixth Man of the Year voting and emerging as a pesky defender. That’s yet another talented young cog they can lean on moving forward.
Ditto for Quentin Grimes, whose insertion into the starting five helped turn around the season and gave the Knicks life in their Heat series. He went from an interesting rookie to full-time starter-caliber NBA wing, improving his off-dribble game and defense.
All of these steps forward gave the Knicks the means to compete at the highest level, and the results don’t diminish those steps one bit. Remember, New York is still rebuilding, and this season is only a chapter of that grand plan.
Part of that includes rebuilding the external image of the franchise, one tarred by years of losing, scandals and a revolving door of staff and players. They’re now three seasons deep with three returning starters and the same head coach, not to mention a couple of playoff appearances.
Stringing these kinds of seasons together may be disappointing if you’re a contender, but for the Knicks, it’s necessary in order to reshape their image. They’re far more attractive as a player and staff destination now that they’ve shown consistent competency, which will pay dividends when they’re ready to make the next jump.
New York’s time to contend will come, but this season was a massive step in the right direction.