How wide is the gap between the Knicks and the Celtics?

Apr 11, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA;  New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) controls the ball while Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) defends during the first half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

In the regular season, the New York Knicks finished second in the east behind the Boston Celtics. In the playoffs, the Knicks were one game away from playing the Celtics in the Conference Finals despite injuries to multiple key players. However, some believe that the gap between the two teams is much further than it seems.

NBA Writer believes the Knicks and Celtics are far apart in the NBA hierarchy

NBA: Boston Celtics at Phoenix Suns
Mar 9, 2024; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) looks on against the Phoenix Suns during the second half at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News recently compared the stature of the two teams. Lupica notes that the Celtics are currently fighting for their 18th NBA title, while the Knicks haven’t won a title in over 50 years. Additionally, Lupica spoke on the rosters of both teams, giving praise to the Celtics roster for its completeness from top to bottom, while lambasting the Knicks roster, which was battered with injuries.

“Maybe the Knicks could have gotten a game, or even two, off the Celtics if they’d managed to make it out of the second round for the first time since 2000,” Lupica wrote. “But they weren’t going to beat them. They still aren’t nearly as good.”

Lupica notes the difference in talent between the two teams

Boston Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis (8) celebrates his basket against New York Knicks guard Donte DiVincenzo (0) during the second quarter at Madison Square Garden
Feb 24, 2024; New York, New York, USA; Boston Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis (8) celebrates his basket against New York Knicks guard Donte DiVincenzo (0) during the second quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Lupica also mentioned the differences in talent between each team’s core set of players. Comparing the Celtics “Big 3” of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Kristaps Porzingis, to the Knicks’ of Jalen Brunson, Josh Hart, and Donte DiVincenzo.

“As much as Brunson has been for the Knicks, and as much as we all fell in love with the ‘Nova Knicks of Brunson and Hart and DiVincenzo, the Celtics’ Big 3 is better, and not by small margins.”

Comparison to the Celtics is unfair to the Knicks

New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau high fives New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) with guard Donte DiVincenzo (0) and forward OG Anunoby (8) and guard Jalen Brunson (11) during the first quarter against the Washington Wizards at Madison Square Garden
Jan 18, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau high fives New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) with guard Donte DiVincenzo (0) and forward OG Anunoby (8) and guard Jalen Brunson (11) during the first quarter against the Washington Wizards at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

What is lacking here is transparency. For the Knicks, Julius Randle, and OG Anunoby, the team’s true second and third-best players rather than Hart and DiVincenzo, had their playoff runs affected by injury, with Randle not suiting up at all during the playoffs.

Yet, for the Celtics, Lupica mentions Kristaps Porzingis as a reason why the Knicks would have lost to Boston had they advanced to the Conference Finals. The issue is the 7-footer injured his calf during the team’s first-round matchup with the Miami Heat and would miss the entire second round, and the entire Conference Finals before finally making his return in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, making the comparison unfair to the Knicks.

In the offseason, the Knicks will look to tighten the gap between them and the Boston Celtics, who seem primed to continue being a top Eastern Conference team for years to come. The Knicks are set up nicely to upgrade their roster, with a good financial situation, and a heavy amount of draft capital which could be used in another blockbuster trade.

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