What is the New York Knicks playoff ceiling?

Isaiah Hartenstein (l.), Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett pose for a photo in the final seconds of the Knicks' 122-101 win over the Atlanta Hawks.

Isaiah Hartenstein (l.), Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett pose for a photo in the final seconds of the Knicks’ 122-101 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.
Image: beautiful pictures

The New York Knicks are officially hot for the New York Knicks. They have won six of the last eight and eight of 12. Newcomer Josh Hart is 9-belong to-14 deep words in the first three games (all wins) against former teammate Villanova Jalen BrunsonAnd Tom Thibodeau has enough talent for Derrick Rose to receive the DNP. They just beat the Atlanta Hawks by 20, and are heading towards the Brooklyn Nets’ fifth seed.

So I guess the question then becomes what can we expect from the Knicks in the knockouts?

Jalen has Brunson has another level?

Thibs has always been a magician with opinion defenders, and Brunson is a find in New York. We got a glimpse in the first round of the knockout round a year ago when Luka Dončić forced to retire due to injury, and his effectiveness did not diminish as the role increased.

This is my biggest concern for post-season. We saw what happened to Julius Randle as the defense has treated him like a star, and there are more than a few Eastern Conference teams with dogs at the perimeter. Boston, Milwaukee, and Miami all have the resources to make Brunson’s life miserable.

At the All-Star break, the Knicks finished sixth in the East – half the game before the Heat, two after the Nets and five after the Cavaliers. Basically, if they can get in fifth or sixth, Brunson will be able to score points against the later Cleveland or Philadelphia players, and I trust him to do the same. (This scenario assumes Brooklyn falls, which you would think will happen, but Mikal Bridges probably has something to say about that.)

Any other teams though? I don’t know because, in this heat wave, the Knicks point guard played the damn thing almost 40 minutes per game. I have no doubt that Thibs will get Brunson across the red line as far as possible. I think it would be very difficult to maintain the same level of effectiveness for more than 40 minutes of knockout with the right amount of attention to pick 1.

Can you trust Julius Randle?

When you watch Randle this year, what stands out is how many thirds he made. At eight per game, he’s trying to be two and a half times higher than his previous career high, but at just 0.338 clips, which is a few percentage points below league average.

Considering he’s hitting 55 percent from two points, the emphasis will be on forcing him to hit three, and he’ll have to suppress the urge to settle.

Randle is back from the irrevocable disaster of last season, his points and bounces are actually up slightly from two years ago when he was All-Star, and the Knicks have been dropped. Ice Trae Young eliminated from the knockout round. Overall, his performance in that series and the loss in that series, hasn’t aged yet, and it has solidified Randle in the “I need to see it” player pool.

How will Josh Hart and RJ Barrett coexist?

Small sample size. It’s literally only been three games since Hart arrived from Portland, but Barrett only played 24 minutes against Brooklyn. on the second night. That’s important because Barrett has four other appearances of 24 minutes or less all season and one of those games was cut short due to injury.

It’s great right now because Hart is scoring 64% from three Knicks. I didn’t know what to do because he basically turned down those looks in Portland. Maybe he’s intentionally increasing his commercial value to be reunited with Brunson, but it seems Hart is too competitive for that to be the case.

Eventually, he will return to Earth. However, if he can still keep his distance as well as Barrett, we know who Thibodeau will put his trust in. Even though they play in the same position, each of them should theoretically be able to defend defenses two and three. If Barrett was one of the top minutes earners before Hart showed up, doesn’t that mean he’s one of the best on the team? And if your top players could fit together on the pitch, that would be the best route to maximize talent, wouldn’t it?

I’m not saying Thibs should spend 38 to 42 minutes on Randle, Brunson, Hart and Barrett, but this coach has a history of trust issues that have frozen potential contributors, (poorly). Obi Toppin) and Barrett were too good to get minutes in place.

So all of this is a long way from saying the Knicks can get through the first round with a match and anything after that is free money.

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