P&T Round(ball) Table: Are the Knicks a playoff team after their free agent spending spree?

P&T Round(ball) Table: Are the Knicks a playoff team after their free agent spending spree?

The Knicks finished six games back of the play-in last season. This week, they added free agents Jalen Brunson and Isaiah Hartenstein. They also re-signed Mitchell Robinson. Are these upgrades enough to vault the Knicks back into playoff contention in 2022-23? The P&T staff weighs in…

Joe Flynn: No. Could the Knicks compete for a playoff spot? Absolutely. They have talent and depth. They have a handful of young players who seem primed for a breakout. But this is still Tom Thibodeau’s team, sadly. Thibs helped the Knicks to the playoffs when he could play an All-NBA-level Julius Randle 40 minutes a night and got 6MOY-level contributions out of Derrick Rose. This current roster, however, is built on youth and depth — two ideals that are anathema to Thibs. I don’t trust Randle to bounce back, and I don’t trust Thibs to pivot to an ascendant Obi Toppin. Now, if the front office trades Randle and forces Thibs’ hand, that’s another story.

Matthew Miranda: They can be a playoff team, if only because they can be a play-in team, putting them just a win or two away from the playoffs. Of the East’s top-10 teams a year ago, outside of catastrophic injury to any of their key players I think nine of them will be about as good as they were last season, if not better. Brooklyn could fall out of the play-in, which could open one spot for New York. Charlotte may once again be in the neighborhood of a .500 team, a mark these Knicks could linger around all season as well. The bigger threat to the Knicks could be the teams in their rear-view mirror: Indiana, Detroit and Orlando all drafted well in the lottery and figure to win more games this year than last.

Kento Kato: No. They have a roster that can make it interesting but I just don’t see them leapfrogging any of the team that made the playoffs last season. I guess I could see a world where Julius Randle comes back and plays better than he did last season. A Randle resurgence, along with the continued improvement of RJ Barrett and incoming point guard Jalen Brunson could help them sneak in through the play-in game. But at this moment, I am not confident in that happening. It’s much more likely we see a young team that shows flashes or brilliance but overall lacks the star power and top level talent to beat good and even mediocre teams consistently enough. I see Randle playing only a tiny bit better than he did last season and the return of coach Thibodeau and his archaic ways of coaching may lead to another frustrating season of wondering where the youth movement is.

Lee Escobedo: No. And as contrarian as it sounds, it shouldn’t be the primary goal. Now that most of the veterans have been shipped out, it’s finally time to concentrate on youth and development. It will take a while for Jalen Brunson to adapt to a new role and team. He has only ever known playing second-fiddle to a generational talent. This Knicks team doesn’t have anything close to that. But we do have good vibes and a joyful young core. Something Brunson will immediately add to. Giving the young guys the lion’s share of the minutes will come with its fair share of bumps and bruises. There will be brutal stretches. Losses will pile up. But this young core will finally be given the opportunity to prove itself and show us all what each young player is made of. And hey, one more losing season plays in our favor too, as we will walk into next year’s stacked draft with potentially five first-round picks.

Russell Richardson: Yup. Unfortunately for the Knicks, the Eastern Conference is loaded with talent. All the playoff teams have at least two respected players leading them: Giannis, Jrue, and Khris; Jaylen and Jason; Zach and DeMar; etc. Jalen Brunson is a fantastic addition to the Knicks, but the fate of the team depends on a few other factors. Will Julius Randle bounce back from a dog of a season? Will RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, and Obi Toppin continue to blossom, with one or more becoming worthy of All-Star consideration? Will Thibs be less rigid and find ways to maximize the talent he’s given? And even if the answers to all those questions are affirmative, the East is still a beast. Rather than ask if the Knicks are a playoff team, I’d ask if they are better than five other Eastern teams, because if so, they can squeak into the play-in bracket. I say sure, why not? New York will be better than the Hornets, Wizards, Pacers, Pistons, Magic, and the Nets, and will try their luck as a play-in team. But, don’t listen to me. I predicted they’d be third in the East last season and couldn’t shut up about their depth. Lesson learned.

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