Biggest Takeaways from the Knicks’ Overachieving 2023 Season

The New York Knicks injury woes finally caught up with them and put a cap on their season with a loss in Game 7 vs Indiana., but there is still much to take away from the incredible year.
May 19, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein (55) and Indiana
May 19, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein (55) and Indiana / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The basketball world loves to say that the two words “Game 7” are the most compelling duo in sports, but for the New York Knicks it has once again left a negative connotation in the dark canals of their storied history.

Exactly 24 years after one of their most glorious playoff runs of the late 90’s ended in a similar fashion, the Knicks found themselves repeating history in a Game 7 dance with the Indiana Pacers at Madison Square Garden. Two decades later, banged up and burnt out amid injuries, the spotlight was not on their side and the result was a 130-109 routing to send Indiana to the Eastern Conference Finals and New York packing for the offseason. 

The Knicks went into the win-or-go-home stage with just seven players available from their rotation, including two in OG Anunoby and Josh Hart who were dealing with significant injuries and battling to perform in the biggest game for their teammates. Many of the remaining pieces of the team were fizzling out from playing upwards of 40-45 minutes per night throughout the postseason, a factor that swung heavily towards the Pacers with their loaded lineup. 

In typical fashion, the Knicks would make their gritty runs behind the inspiration of their raucous fan base to remain in the game. They cut it as close as six points early in the third quarter, but the historic shooting of the Indiana Pacers never slowed down in those 24 minutes and it was a repeat of the eerie fate that New Yorkers remember in 1999-20 when the road rival took down their NBA title dreams. 

Despite all the odds and obstacles dealt throughout the year, the Knicks would culminate one of their most impressive campaigns in recent memory. The final result was deemed a “failure” by the guys in the locker room, but the team surpassed many expectations that were held for them at the start of the season, including winning 50 regular season contests to secure the 2-seed in the Eastern Conference and setting individual league records on both sides of the court. 

The entire season found its feet behind the amazing offseason efforts of general manager Leon Rose to set the foundation necessary for continuous growth towards championship contention. In year one, he recruited big defensive rebounding assets in Isaiah Hartenstein and Josh Hart to improve the two elements that have defined the Tom Thinodeau system. 

The following offseason saw him drag Donte Divencenzo into the mix, who grew into one of the best three-point shooters and reincarnated the Villanova trifecta that once frequented the Mecca at the collegiate level. He also worked behind the scenes to make valuable trades that would add contending pieces to the mix, including the deal for Anunoby that figured to add a strong, lengthy defender that will outwork star players in future postseason runs. 

Even as all that hard work was marred by injuries that many felt would lower the bar of their season, the Knicks had assembled themselves a locker room of professionals that never turned away from being the next man up. They watched positive developments from guys like Miles McBride and Precious Achuiwa who stepped into heavier minutes and gave career-high efforts to keep the team competitive at an unbelievable rate. 

Standing high atop it all was the partnership with Jalen Brunson two summers ago, who ascended into a full fledged superstar and the full-time point guard for the Knicks’ future. Brunson was the engine that made the entire team gel in 2023 and garnered a renewed respect from the rest of the association. He averaged 28.7 points and 6.7 assists in 77 games and ravaged the field for upwards of 30-40 nightly on the postseason stage 

As New York heads into the offseason, a lot of financial decisions will have to be made to keep Thibodeau’s unit together for another run next fall. Aside from the potential for contract extensions with a few key guys, the Knicks could have holes to fill as Hartenstein, Alec Burks, Bojan Bogdanovic and Precious Achuiwa will all enter the free agent market. Tom Thibodeau is also nearing the end of his coaching contract, a reality most expect to be resolved at a rate of around $10 million per season before the end of the 2024-25 season. 

There will also be the side of whether the organization pursues one of the lingering stars soon to hit the open market via a trade. A few disgruntled premier players have been tied to rumored interest in playing in the Big Apple and the Knicks have a slew of draft capital at their disposal to package for the last missing piece, including two picks in the upcoming NBA Draft this June. 

With so much left to be resolved in the coming months, the end of a memorable season from an overachieving group will leave many in the Knicks fanbase feeling melancholy from falling in love with the unit assembled in 2023. The truth is that the best is yet to come for the starving franchise and many of that squad will return to continue building upon the tough culture that has brought the Knicks back into relevancy in the basketball world. 

No longer are the Knicks the laughingstock of the NBA nor the easy subject for the relentless memes in the Internet landscape. No longer are outside players labeling the team “not cool” or acting too afraid to consider the prospect of playing in the World’s Most Famous Arena beyond being a visitor. 

Most importantly, no longer is the team run by a front office that is incapable of making the important moves necessary to change the narrative. The years of bad contracts, poor coaching, and uncompetitive lineups are over and the Knicks have themselves a forward thinking duo in Leon Rose and Tom Thibodeau that will work to inch them closer to the promised land again. 

So don’t feel sad that it all ended at the hands of a hated rival for the second time in two and a half decades. Don’t let the talk of “mirages” or injuries blur the reality you saw unfold for 82 games and two playoff series. Be happy that this 2023 season happened for the Knicks, because they are finally on the right track and will be more deeper and talented in the years to come. 

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