Knicks face hefty competition in the Eastern Conference

nba: boston celtics at new york knicks, jalen brunson
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks have their hands full in the NBA Eastern Conference as the Boston Celtics continued their roster re-tooling with the addition of All-Defensive First Team point guard Jrue Holiday.

The Portland Trail Blazers dealt Holiday to the Celtics in exchange for reigning Sixth Man of the Year Malcolm Brogdon, Robert Williams III, and two future draft picks, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski relayed to the NBA world earlier today.

The Knicks Have Remained Patient

It’s been a quiet offseason for Knicks general manager Scott Perry — a stark contrast in comparison to the Celtics and their Central division rival Milwaukee Bucks.

The Knicks triumphed over strong play from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown with a 3-1 season series win over the Celtics a season ago. The additions of Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis create a tougher challenge for New York though.

Boston shot a combined 61 more threes than New York in their four matchups. Porzingis adds to their formidability by putting pressure on his defenders from outside. He made 1.8 of his 2.1 three-point field goals per game from 25 feet or deeper, trailing only Julius Randle and Lauri Markkanen among all players who saw time at center in 2022-23.

Mitchell Robinson and Isaiah Hartenstein will be forced out to the perimeter frequently to respect Porzingis’ range. Jalen Brunson struggled against Holiday and the Bucks, shooting 41.9 percent from the floor, and has to deal with his pesky individual defense behind another elite team defense.

As good as New York was against the Celtics, they dropped all four games in their season series against the Bucks.

The Bucks thrive in transition, with Giannis Antetokounmpo pushing the ball up the floor off of defensive rebounds. Milwaukee’s DNA has always been predicated around Antetokounmpo, forcing defenses to collapse off of penetration around the top of the key and kicking out to shooters.

With Lillard in the fray, the Knicks will now have to contend with one of the five best shooters in NBA history while maintaining discipline against star forward Khris Middleton and a supporting cast of Brook Lopez, Bobby Portis, and Pat Connaughton that can score anywhere on the floor.

Across the rest of the Eastern Conference, the Washington Wizards and Indiana Pacers were the only other teams to see significant changes to their roster.

The Wizards traded for combo guard and Sixth Man of the Year candidate Jordan Poole, but their trading away of Porzingis and Bradley Beal to the Phoenix Suns leaves them in a rebuilding situation, while the Pacers added around All-Star Tyrese Haliburton by bringing in NBA champion Bruce Brown.

Neither team advanced to the 2023 NBA Playoffs and is likely still a couple of years away from contention. The Knicks will be burdened with the reigning Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers, and the Cleveland Cavaliers in a jockey for playoff positioning.

Much like last season, the Brooklyn Nets and Toronto Raptors pose serious threats to the Knicks as well. Rising star Mikal Bridges had a successful 2023 FIBA World Cup outing after exploding for 26.1 points and 4.5 rebounds with the Nets’ post-trade deadline.

The Raptors have championship DNA with Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet spearheading their offense, while the 76ers possess nuclear potency but have yet to live up to expectations behind MVP Joel Embiid.

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