The NBA regular season officially starts on October 18. The New York Knicks go up against the Memphis Grizzlies on the road on October 19.
Since the season is beginning soon, many sports media platforms have released rankings going into the 2022-2023 season. These lists tend to spark debate and conversation since it’s easy to disagree about where a player is ranked.
The rankings are by the Bleacher Report NBA writers Eric Pincus, Greg Swartz, Andy Bailey, and Dan Favale.
The top 100 list included three current Knicks players. The trio of RJ Barrett, Jalen Brunson, and Julius Randle were present on Bleacher Report’s latest ranking. The website placed Barrett (59), Brunson (61), and Randle (73) on the list of players.
Headed into his fourth season, Barrett was the highest player on the Knicks ranked, which is good news considering that Barrett has continuously improved each season. The lack of high efficiency has been the main negative for Barrett for the past three seasons, but Swartz believes with Brunson at point guard, the Canadian forward’s efficiency should increase.
“Barrett still has an incredibly high ceiling entering Year 4, especially if he can improve his shooting efficiency. Having a point guard like Jalen Brunson should help, as only 37.0 percent of Barrett’s career shots from inside the arc have come off an assist. Big, two-way wings are the most valuable commodity in the NBA, and Barrett is on the threshold of becoming one of the best,” Swartz wrote.
Through three games in the preseason, Barrett’s efficiency has improved. He is shooting over 52 percent from the field, 47 percent from three, and nearly 91 percent from the free throw line.
If Barrett can have a resemblance of those kind of shooting numbers in the regular season, he has a good chance of reaching his All-Star goal.
Randle Takes a Step Back
Julius Randle has dropped off in the player rankings from a year prior, especially after being named an All-Star in the 2020-2021 season and being selected on the All-NBA second team.
Bleacher Report placed the power forward (32) on their player rankings last year after coming off the best season of his career. Last season didn’t go well for Randle for many reasons, including his shooting struggles, emotional outbursts, and lack of accountability from head coach Tom Thibodeau.
That explains why Randle dropped 41 spots this year. While his statistical numbers might look good to the average fan, it doesn’t tell the whole story of his lack of impact last season, which Dan Favale pointed out.
“This placement does not exaggerate just how bad Julius Randle was last season. The shot selection and shot making, the defense, the demeanor—it was a masterclass in comprehensive regression. So much so, not even a strong closing kick softens the blow,” Favale wrote.
Favale did mention that it’s possible Randle can climb back up in the rankings if the 27-year-old takes a step back on offense. With the new addition of Brunson at point guard and Barrett improving, Randle can step back and not worry about being the main target on offense. Randle has said he wants to be unselfish and buy into how Thibodeau wants to play. With this mindset, the Knicks can perform better on offense.
“Randle has value as a speedballing playmaker and showed in 2021 he possesses a defensive pulse. If he can buy into a second- or third-in-command role that includes more picking-and-popping and rim-diving, he’ll scrap and claw his way back into the top-50 discourse.”
Brunson Makes Top 100 List
It’s no surprise that Brunson makes the top 100 rankings (61) after having a career-year last season with the Dallas Mavericks, especially performing well in the postseason with averages of 21.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 3.7 assists, which would help lead his former team to the Western Conference Finals.
Now in New York, Brunson gives the Knicks something valuable, stability at the starting point guard position. Brunson is a floor general who can impact the team whether he has the ball in his hands or is playing off the ball.
“Brunson’s offense is not smack-you-in-the-face explosive. It is more dominant in its uniqueness. The pressure he puts on opposing defenses in the lane with his footwork, change of speeds and finishing is immensely impactful,” Favale wrote when analyzing what Brunson can bring on the offensive end of the floor.
In the first three preseason games played, Brunson has shown his value at the point guard position, averaging 14.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 4.0 assists. His ability to drive has earned him 4.3 free throw attempts in the preseason.
With Brunson being the primary floor general in New York, there is optimism that he can take his game to another level.