Knicks: Keys for this season as NBA Media Day approaches

NBA: Playoffs-New York Knicks at Miami Heat, rj barrett
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

NBA media day starts tomorrow, Oct. 2, and the New York Knicks have much to look forward to heading into the 2023-24 season.

With much of their roster intact from a year ago, Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau will be tasked with leading the franchise back to the playoffs in an Eastern Conference that has seen the Milwaukee Bucks add Damian Lillard and the Boston Celtics trade for Kristaps Porzingis.

Three crucial factors could impact New York’s upcoming campaign, and Knicks fans should hope to receive critical information from their organization during media day:

How Will the Coaching Staff Further Develop Key Role Players?

The Knicks have a strong supporting cast around Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson. Isaiah Hartenstein and Quentin Grimes contributed significantly off of New York’s bench in 2022-23 and will be instrumental in their continued success.

Among all lineups that shared the floor together in 30 or more games, Grimes, Julius Randle, Jalen Brunson, Mitchell Robinson, and RJ Barrett’s 40.2 points per game in roughly 16 minutes of action ranked third in the association.

Grimes, a 23-year-old forward, saw a 13-minute spike in playing time from his rookie campaign and shot 46.8 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from three while almost doubling his scoring. Further, among 122 players who played 29 or more minutes, Grimes was one of only eight to average one turnover or less, showing his efficiency.

Meanwhile, Hartenstein provided hustle, energy, and strong finishing in the paint. His per-36 minutes averages of 9.0 points and 11.9 rebounds along with 1.4 blocks shows that he can produce in an expanded role.

Hartenstein joined Mark Williams, Andre Drummond, and Nick Richards as the only players to corral six or more rebounds in under 20 minutes of playing time. However, his 2.6 fouls trailed only Dwight Powell for most in the same amount of playing time, and a reduction in that area will enable Hartenstein to spell for the foul-prone Robinson more.

Creating Easy Opportunities In the Half-court

The Knicks were exceptional in isolation, scoring 10.3 points per game. Comparatively, they only scored nine points off of cuts and 2.1 points off of screens, the latter of which was second-worst among all teams.

Further, New York averaged the third-highest time of possession and dribbles per touch. Randle and Brunson made up 77 percent of their isolation production, and a key area next season will be how Coach Thibodeau plans to spread the floor to generate easier opportunities.

The Knicks were very efficient scoring inside of nine feet and can capitalize off of floaters and other high-efficiency looks inside. Media day will allow the coaching staff to share insight into their plans for getting the better of opposing defenses.

Can the Knicks’ Defense Go From Great to Elite?

Maintaining the league’s second-best defensive rating at 107.8 points per 100 possessions will be crucial in staving off potent offenses. The Knicks conceded the fewest points in the paint, fourth-fewest points off of turnovers, and fifth-fewest fast break points. They were stout in most areas, but not free from flaws.

Opponents scored an NBA-high 11.4 points in clutch-time situations. For the Knicks to improve their 23-22 record in the clutch, limiting late-game runs will be a point of focus for the franchise. They showed that they can clean up sloppy play late as they limited opponents to only 6.2 points down the stretch in the Playoffs.

Individually, the Knicks play a fun and energetic style of basketball. Brunson and Randle can get to their spots with ease. Pivotal for the Knicks will be how fifth-year player RJ Barrett takes the next step. Can he contend for an All-Star bid in 2024? Will play-calling change how many touches Barrett gets? How will the coaching staff help Barrett shoot better than 45 percent from the floor for the first time in his young career? Media day will clear up many of these questions for a team with championship aspirations.

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