Draymond Green takes another shot at Knicks

NBA: Playoffs-Golden State Warriors at Sacramento Kings, knicks
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The New York Knicks are two games away from making it to the 2024 NBA Eastern Conference Finals, but one Golden State Warriors star isn’t buying them as serious championship threats.

On the most recent episode of his eponymous podcast “The Draymond Green Show,” Warriors forward Draymond Green stated that the Knicks have benefitted off of an easy road to the ECF, characterizing the Eastern Conference as weaker than the Western Conference he plays in (h/t Fox Sports’ Chantz Martin):

“In the Eastern Conference, you can get to the conference finals, a la the Atlanta Hawks, by playing like very ‘mid’ teams, so that’s what you all are doing right now,” Green said.

“And I think what this is setting y’all up for is what happened to the Atlanta Hawks three years ago when they made the conference finals, and they never got back.” 

Could the Knicks’ have reached a 50-win season in the West in 2024?

Green is known for his outspoken stances. His take on this matter is not hot, but neither is it the opposite.

The Knicks were able to achieve their first 50-win season in 11 years even after 2024 All-Star Julius Randle went down with a dislocated shoulder on Jan. 27 against the Miami Heat. Their path to the Eastern Conference Semifinals came with its challenges to close out the year and in this postseason, but had they dealt with their No. 2 option going down in the West, things could have shaken out differently.

Lower seeds in the West had more elite talent than the East this year

Even with a hobbled 2023 NBA MVP Joel Embiid, the Philadelphia 76ers were a tough first-round opponent in this year’s playoffs at the bottom of the standings.

However, when putting first and second-round opponents side by side in both conferences, seeds No. 5-8 in the West (Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Lakers) come out much stronger on paper from a talent perspective than seeds No. 5-8 in the East (Orlando Magic, Indiana Pacers, 76ers and Miami Heat).

Further, Jimmy Butler was also out for the Heat and even boasted about how he would have eliminated a couple of teams, including the Knicks, had he played them in the first round. Butler has been the most impactful player in the playoffs over the last five seasons out East. His absence cleared the way further in the conference, though New York would not have seen them until at least the ECF this year.

Knicks’ strong season and playoffs surge is more of a credit to their team than an indictment

Nonetheless, the East produced the NBA’s best team in the Boston Celtics (64-18), and other strong teams like the Milwaukee Bucks and Cleveland Cavaliers finished with at least 48 wins in the regular season. Though, the Bucks lost two-time league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo for the remainder of the postseason in the first round.

This takes nothing away from the Knicks’ accomplishments this spring. Jalen Brunson has played at an historic pace. In fact, their 2-1 lead over the Indiana Pacers in the second round is more of a testament to their depth and coaching strength than anything.

Yet as Green mentioned, another team led by a star point guard in Trae Young’s Hawks took the league by storm with their ECF run in 2021, but have significantly tapered off since. The difference is, they didn’t have an All-NBA talent as second best player, neither was he absent for their playoff run. The Knicks can still achieve more in these playoffs and take things to another level next season when Randle returns should they fail to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy come June.

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