When it comes to the 2022-23 New York Knicks, it’s anyone’s guess when it comes to predicting how their season will play out.
Considering they are only two seasons removed from finishing in the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference standings and claiming home-court advantage in the playoffs with essentially the same core group of players, their upside is arguably rather high.
However, being that they just finished last year off in the 11 seed with a sub-.500 record of 37-45, the sour taste of mediocrity is still far too fresh for anyone to bet the house that New York will have a much-needed bounce-back campaign.
Now, though this latter point of view may not be the most luxurious by any means, NBA Insider Ian Begley recently stated in a September 20 interview with Knicks Fans Brasil that their lowly status heading into the season could wind up being a positive for the team, for having such low expectations means that anything better than last season could be seen as a positive.
“I think one thing that they have going for them is low expectations. They’re not burdened by everybody thinking that they’re going to make a big leap from last year. I think the bar is low and, so, to me that’s always a good thing for a young team that’s hungry and trying to prove itself,” Begley said.
“If the expectations are low you’re not going to be saddled by devastating reactions after every loss because people don’t expect that much.”
Comparatively, coming into last season many were expecting the New York Knicks to build off of their triumphant 2020-21 Cinderella story, as they kept key pieces from that team such as Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, and Derrick Rose intact while also bringing on players such as Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier into the mix who, at the time, were viewed as rather splashy additions.
Seeing the club miss out on the playoffs for the 17th time since the turn of the century in 2021-22 would have been a tough thing for fans to endure on its own, but this coupled with the grandiose expectations that followed them into the year made such a finish all the more difficult to witness.
In Begley’s eyes, if the bar is at ground level, exceeding expectations becomes a rather easy feat to accomplish.
Knicks Could ‘Be in the Hunt’ for Play-In
In the interview, Begley would continue on by suggesting that, considering the minimal pressure for the Knicks to succeed coupled with their assortment of talents, they could realistically wind up being a legitimate play-in candidate come season’s end.
“…I don’t think there’s any why they shouldn’t be in the hunt for the play-in tournament towards the end of the year,” Begley said.
“They should be, you know, 36, 37, 38, 39 wins. They should be around there. And you should be in the hunt for the play-in tournament in the east, and then we’ll see what happens.”
Begley would go on to state that missing the play-in tournament would be a “big disappointment” for the Knicks, especially when considering the fact that they signed Jalen Brunson to a high-priced contract in free agency and failed to acquire their long-desired trade target in Donovan Mitchell this summer.
Now, while his logic on the team’s season outlook and expectations are quite sound, it must not be forgotten that all of the Eastern Conference clubs that participated in the play-in tournament last season saw win totals hovering around the mid-40s, so the Insider’s take on “36, 37, 38, 39 wins” being enough to contend for a top-10 spot may need to be bumped up a bit.
Thibodeau’s Future With Knicks in Question
Recently, an anonymous NBA general manager spoke with Heavy.com’s Sean Deveney and discussed how the Knicks could find themselves looking for a new head coach next summer should Tom Thibodeau have another season similar to 2021-22.
“There was a lot of question as to whether he would make it through last year after the way they fell apart and how undisciplined that team seemed at times,” the executive told Deveney.” He was very slow to change the rotation, things like that, and it rubbed people the wrong way. But Thibs is always consistent in his approach. It’ll be the same this year.
“His problem is, look at the East, and they’re 10th best. That is the best-case scenario if everyone is healthy around the East. They’re 10th. SO he could do the best possible job he can, finish 10th and still get fired. I’d say he will get fired if they finish 10th. It’s a tough spot.”
Although he may be a two-time NBA Coach of the Year winner, each one of Thibodeau’s three stints as a head coach has been met with unceremonious endings, and, based on this executive’s analysis of the team, he may be heading for a similar “parting of ways” with the Knicks come year’s end.