Knicks: 3 players with the most to prove in 2023

knicks, rj barrett
Dec 11, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) drives to the basket against Sacramento Kings forward Keegan Murray (13) during the fourth quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks are keeping last season’s core intact after reaching the second round of the playoffs last season. The Knicks will look to, at the minimum, replicate that success in the 2023-24 season. However, there are still a few players on the roster who have to prove that they are worthy of being a part of the long-term plans going forward.

Is it too late for RJ Barrett to break out?

The biggest question mark for Knicks fans this upcoming season is whether or not RJ Barrett will finally break out into that All-Star level player he was expected to become.

At 23 years old, Barrett is entering his fifth season in the league, yet there are still plenty of unknowns surrounding the forward. It seemed like he was finally going to develop into a star after a strong second half in 2022, but he followed that up with a lackluster season littered with inconsistencies on both ends of the floor.

For Barrett to really take a step forward, he needs to improve his outside shot. Last season, he shot a career-low 31% from beyond the arc, a three percentage point decrease from the season before and a nine-point decrease from his career-high 40% in 2021.

While it is unlikely that he will reach 40% from outside again, even a marginal improvement from beyond the arc will help transform Barrett into an all-around scorer, giving the Knicks a more balanced attack on offense.

Is it smart to give IQ the bag?

Some might think that Immanuel Quickley has proven to be a cog in the Knicks’ system, but in reality, he still has more to prove.

While Quickley demonstrated phenomenal two-way capabilities during the second half of last season, a sloppy start to his season nearly got him traded, and a quiet postseason is part of why his extension talks with New York have stalled.

Quickley is set to become a restricted free agent after this upcoming season, meaning that the Knicks can match any other team’s offer. However, the sixth man is seeking a lucrative extension, with recent reports suggesting that he wants a contract similar to his teammate, Jalen Brunson.

In order to give the Knicks a greater reason to pay a bench player nine figures, Quickley must prove that his success from last season is sustainable. Rather than paying him based on four great months, the Knicks need to see Quickly put it all together for a full season.

The Knicks need their All-Star to step up

This may come as a surprise to some, but even the team’s lone All-Star has more to prove this upcoming season.

Coming off his best season as a pro last year where he averaged 25 points and over 10 rebounds per game, Julius Randle bounced back from a disappointing season in 2022 in dominant fashion. However, an ankle injury suffered at the end of the regular season clearly hampered him in the playoffs, as he averaged just 16 points on 37% shooting, making it his second lackluster overall postseason performance.

While Randle is anticipated to bid for another All-Star nod and All-NBA consideration, something to keep an eye on is whether he can replicate the same success from last season after his ankle injury. Then Rangle will need to ensure that success can carry over into the postseason.

Randle is expected to be fully healthy in time for training camp, but he will nonetheless be put to the test immediately, as restless Knicks fans have set the bar very high for the star power forward.

Final thoughts

The Knicks are coming into this season with high expectations after their playoff run last season. Being at the center of attention, the players mentioned have a chance to prove themselves as elite-level talents, but it is all dependent on how they respond to adversity.

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