The New York Knicks have heavy competition on their hands in the NBA Eastern Conference this upcoming season and one franchise great sees the second round of the playoffs as the farthest they can go in 2024.
Stefan Bondy of the New York Post spotlighted former Knicks shooting guard Jamal Crawford’s take on whether or not the team can advance beyond the Eastern Conference semifinals with other proven teams in the way:
“I’m not sure they can win another round, if I’m being honest with you. I’m not sure they can go further as constructed,” Crawford, who played for the Knicks from 2004-08, said. “But at least they’re in the mix right now. They’re in it.”
The Top Dogs For New York to Gear Up For Out East
In order for the Knicks to make their first Conference Finals since 2000, they’ll likely have to go through the Milwaukee Bucks or Boston Celtics in order to do so.
Building a wall to prevent Giannis Antetokounmpo from getting into the lane is no longer a one-size fits all approach to slowing down the Bucks with Damian Lillard now in the fray. The two form a big three along with former All-Star Khris Middleton who all have the scoring chops to pour in 30 points on any given night and a resume of delivering down the stretch of big games.
The Bucks ran the table in their 3-0 season series sweep of the Knicks. Their stifling defense held New York to under 40 percent shooting from the field in two of their three victories. Their perimeter defense will take a backseat with the loss of Jrue Holiday but what they lose on that end they more than make up for offensively.
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The Boston Celtics have also formed an offensive juggernaut with the additions of Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis. The new four-headed monster formed with franchise pillars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown appears destined to overcome dry spells they’ve succumbed to in previous playoffs.
The Knicks will need a third scorer to emerge alongside Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson in order to keep up with the two powerhouses in the East. RJ Barrett is the obvious next man up and will be the difference maker in the Knicks’ entire season outlook. The bus does not stop there though.
The 76ers, Heat, and Cavaliers Pose Major Threats to the Knicks’ Playoff Roadmap
Despite being riddled with trade rumors, the Philadelphia 76ers remain a threat to not only win the East, but take home the Larry O’Brien trophy come June. James Harden showed that he still has traces of his former self from Houston as he pushed the Sixers to a Game 7 against the Celtics in last year’s semis with a hampered Joel Embiid.
Harden’s 45-point performance in Game 1 and 42-point onslaught in Game 4 silenced critics who deemed him over-the-hill and unable to produce in the postseason despite failing to advance. Tyrese Maxey also shone for Philadelphia and his willingness to come off the bench behind D’Anthony Melton allowed head coach Doc Rivers to let him run the show with the second unit. If Barrett can outperform Maxey in the scoring department, the Knicks ought to feel good about their chances against Philly with Harden a year older and Embiid liable to get hurt in any given game.
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Not enough attention has been given to the reigning Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat. They lost out to Milwaukee in the three-month battle to land Lillard. Yet and still, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo have continually found ways to upset teams with more scoring punch since 2020 and have made two Finals appearances in that span. Getting Tyler Herro back to full strength gives them a third scorer who has not yet scratched the surface of his full potential.
The Knicks fell to the Heat in last year’s semis but had their way with the Cleveland Cavaliers as they steamrolled Donovan Mitchell and company in a five-game rout. Cleveland did not make a loud splash in free agency and like New York, will put forth a nearly identical roster on opening night next week.
The Knicks have several teams to watch out for as the season rolls on. Improving their 23-18 home record will be one of many steps needed to strengthen their odds of downing their foes out East.