Knicks Predicted to Reach Conference Finals: ‘Jalen Brunson Is Top 5 MVP Candidate’

Knicks star Jalen Brunson celebrates

Getty Jalen Brunson #11 of the New York Knicks reacts to a three-point basket against the Houston Rockets.

TNT’s “Inside the NBA” analyst Kenny Smith turned from doubter to believer as he now predicts the New York Knicks to challenge the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.

His view of the Knicks has dramatically changed with Jalen Brunson’s continued rise to become an All-Star point guard. Smith now boldly claims Brunson is in the top five MVP conversation.

“At the beginning of the year, I made a comment,” Smith said on the “Stephen A. Smith Show” on February 20. “I said I don’t know if the Knicks could win the Eastern Conference or be in it because they always walk on the floor having the second-best player right. … but Brunson has narrowed the gap: ‘You might be the best player but I’m not far behind you. So, now I have talented guys behind me which surpasses what you might have.’

Now, that’s the difference. We talk about MVP candidate, [Brunson] is in the top five. He just shortened the gap. Maybe he’s not [Joel] Embiid, maybe he’s not Giannis [Antetokounmpo] but when he plays, he makes winning plays that separate the gap.”

The two Smiths have listed Celtics’ Jayson Tatum, Minnesota Timberwolves’ Anthony Edwards,  Oklahoma City Thunder’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic as their top four.

Smith’s prediction, however, has its caveat — the Knicks have to be healthy to make a deep postseason run.

After the All-Star break, the Knicks are getting back Donte DiVincenzo (sore hamstring), Bojan Bogdanovic (sore left calf), and Isaiah Hartenstein (sore Achilles).

Mitchell Robinson (ankle) is resuming on-court activities this week. OG Anunoby (elbow) will be re-evaluated by March 1 while Julius Randle (shoulder) is hopeful to return before the playoffs.

Jalen Brunson Relishes First All-Star Experience

Brunson made the most out of his All-Star debut with 12 points on 5 of 12 shooting in only 18 minutes off the bench.

“I can’t really put it into words,” Brunson said via New York Post. “It’s something you dream of and something you think about as a kid. … But to be able to do this and to be able to see the joy it’s brought my family, it’s fun.

“And to see the city, how it’s reacted and how they’ve embraced me, it’s unbelievable.”

The Knicks star also produced five assists, four rebounds and one steal to help the Eastern Conference All-Stars to a record-breaking 211-186 rout of the Western Conference All-Stars on February 18 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

The East’s 211 points were the most in the All-Star Game’s 73-year history, breaking the 196 scored by the West in 2016.

Jalen Brunson’s Focus Shifts Back to Knicks’ Playoff Dreams

Brunson has turned out to be the Knicks’ biggest free agent signing since Amare Stoudemire in 2010.

He only took 118 games, tying Carmelo Anthony, to reach 3,000 points in Knicks history. Bob McAdoo was the fastest Knick to reach the milestone in only 113 games, per “Inside the NBA” on TNT.

After carrying the Knicks on his back to the second round last season, hopes are high in New York that with Brunson leading a deeper team than last year’s roster, can reach the Eastern Conference Finals.

“Obviously, there’s chances,” Brunson said via New York Post. “But I think for us we can’t focus on that. We have to concentrate on Philly, our first game out of the break, and go from there.

The best part about the journey is just taking it step by step. And it’s something we can’t look past, at all.”

The Knicks will resume their campaign against the Embiid-less 76ers on Thursday, February 22, on the road.


Read More