Knicks Stars Make Massive Jump in ESPN’s Top 100 Rankings

Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle of the New York Knicks.

Getty Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle of the New York Knicks.

Six New York Knicks players were included in ESPN’s 2023 NBArank top 100, led by Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle, who massively jumped from their last season’s rankings.

Brunson rose 35 spots, leaping from 67th to 32nd place after a breakout season, and Randle rose 26 spots, leaping from 71st last year to 45th.

Mitchell Robinson (100th), Immanuel Quickley (92nd), Josh Hart (91st) and RJ Barrett (71st) were the other Knicks who made the list.

Randle’s leap was buoyed by his bounce-back season. He averaged a career-high 25.1 points, 10 rebounds and 4.1 assists to earn his second All-Star berth and a spot in the All-NBA Third Team.

The polarizing Knicks All-Star forward played a big role in the team’s second trip to the playoffs over the last three seasons. While an ankle injury slowed him down in the playoffs, the Knicks managed to win a series for the first time in 10 years.

Randle looked spry in his first game back from an arthroscopic surgery on his left ankle in June. He scored 11 points on an efficient 3-of-4 shooting and grabbed four rebounds in 12 minutes during the Knicks’ 114-107 preseason-opening win over the depleted Boston Celtics Monday night.

ESPN writer Tim Bontemps pointed out Randle’s efficiency as the key “to replicate last year’s success.”

Randle’s turnaround came with much help from Brunson, whose calming leadership and clutch playmaking stabilized the Knicks. After bolting Dallas during last year’s free agency, the bulky point guard was sensational in his first season with the Knicks. Brunson averaged 24 points and 6.2 assists while shooting 41.2% from deep, all career highs.

According to Bontemps, “the goal for Brunson will be to prove he can do all of it again.”

Brunson could come into the season with another chip on the shoulder given that other star guards in the Eastern Conference — Donovan Mitchell (15th), Trae Young (29th) and Tyrese Haliburton (21st) — failed to lead their teams to the playoffs last season and yet still enter 2023-24 ranked ahead of him on ESPN’s list.

NBA GMs View Knicks as 5th Seed in the East

The Knicks will finish as the fifth seed again in the Eastern Conference, according to the annual NBA GM survey.

They drew a total of 7% of the votes to rank fifth, just 1% behind projected fourth seed Philadelphia 76ers, whose future is still a question mark pending resolution of disgruntled James Harden’s trade request.

A considerable part of the GMs’ confidence in the Knicks is having Tom Thibodeau, who was tied with Memphis’ Taylor Jenkins, as the head coach with the best defensive schemes. Thibodeau and Jenkins got 13% of the votes, with Miami’s Erik Spoelstra as the runaway top choice with 40%.

Brunson was the only Knicks player who received votes in two individual categories: best leader and active player who will become the best head coach someday.

Knicks Monitoring 3 NBA Stars

The Knicks star hunting continues following another quiet offseason. According to New York Post’s Stefan Bondy, the Knicks have their eyes on three NBA stars who could become available soon.

“The Knicks are monitoring three targets, in particular, a source said: Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns, Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and Cleveland’s Donovan Mitchell,” Bondy reported. “Of those three, the most feasible in-season deal would be for Towns.”

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