Are the Knicks’ championship hopes all on Jalen Brunson this season?

New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) gestured after making a three point shot in the first quarter against the Orlando Magic at Madison Square Garden
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

At the Feb. 8 NBA trade deadline, the New York Knicks seemingly became legitimate championship contenders. Their additions of Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks were the missing pieces to the successful season they put together up until that point.

Then, a wave of injuries hit the team. It derailed a winning stretch in January that elevated them as high as the No. 2 seed in the East. Currently at 37-26, the Knicks are still thought of to be title hopefuls once fully healthy. That will include getting Julius Randle’s services back.

Until then, Steve Serby of the New York Post asserted that Jalen Brunson will be responsible for keeping the Knicks in the win column and their championship hopes alive:

“Brunson is the one who now carries the hopes and dreams of an obsessed, championship-starved city on his shoulders. He is the All-Star the Garden serenades with choruses of “MVP, MVP, MVP.” 

Why Jalen Brunson’s availability is necessary for the Knicks’ regular season finish

Randle is not near a return, though OG Anunoby is day-to-day. Therefore, Brunson will be looked at to keep the Knicks from slipping into play-in territory.

Once the postseason rolls around, the 2024 All-Star will likely have more of an onus placed on him than Randle. The latter had been the team’s franchise player since 2020. Albeit, Brunson’s 27.2 points per game have elevated him to fringe MVP status.

Beyond that, Randle’s inconsistent postseason play since joining the franchise has raised concerns over his ability to lead them past the second round. He disappointed with 14.4 points per night against the Cleveland Cavaliers in last year’s first-round series. Randle followed that up with a substandard 18.8 points on 41.1% shooting from the floor in their semifinals matchup against the Miami Heat.

Brunson will be looked at to deliver wins against fellow title contenders and drive the bus in the playoffs

On the other hand, Brunson’s reliability down the stretch of games (3.1 clutch points per game) and the Knicks’ 1-4 record without him prove his winning worth.

New York will have their share of challenges in the remainder of the regular season. The Villanova product will be needed against the defending champion Denver Nuggets (Mar. 21) and Oklahoma City Thunder (Mar. 31) as well as three pivotal Eastern Conference matchups against the Miami Heat (Apr. 2), Milwaukee Bucks (Apr. 7), and Boston Celtics (Apr. 11).

Brunson will be the largest determinant in what seed they finish with. He’ll also have all eyes on him to deliver in the playoffs.

Mentioned in this article:

More about: