Knicks Season At Risk Of Spiraling – TechVerdant

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After remaining largely healthy the last couple of years, the injury bug has hit the New York Knicks hard lately, and the Knicks season is at risk of spiraling because of it. February has not been a kind month to them, finishing with a 4-8 record and losers of 7 of their last 9 games. Indeed, one of the wins was an extremely fortunate one against the 9-49 Pistons. It took Donte DiVincenzo‘s linebacker hit near the buzzer to allow Josh Hart to score, or they’d have lost that game too. Somewhat making up for that egregious historically bad call to decide the Rockets game, which the Knicks protested to the NBA to no avail. We’d need a separate column for the dire standards of officiating throughout the league this year, but I digress.

Knicks Season At Risk Of Spiraling

This week the Celtics, Pelicans, and Warriors made mince-meat of the Knicks at MSG. Leaving them clinging to the 4th seed, but only a game out of the play-in. At this stage, any hopes of securing home court for the playoffs look unlikely. The true test is holding onto one of the top 6 seeds. It isn’t for a lack of effort, they’ve played extremely tough in every game. They’re just banged up, and it’s derailed momentum. After going 14-2 in January and torching the league, they’ve hit the skids due to injury. However, it’s also deeper than that, their deadline-day deal isn’t paying dividends either. Although Bogdanovic is too good not to break out, I seriously question Burks addition.

Deadline-Day Trade At Risk Of Flaming Out- Particularly Burks

Acquiring Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks from Detroit, with Quentin Grimes and Evan Fournier going the other way was heralded as a steal throughout the league. Two veteran scorers to help the Knicks bench weather the storm until Julius Randle comes back from his dislocated shoulder was the expectation. Instead, the results have had an adverse effect. Mostly pertaining to Burks, as Bogdanovic is an excellent player.

Alec Burks for instance has been horrendous. Shooting 22/70 since his return with more turnovers (9), than assists (6). Shooting just 30% and playing traffic cone defense. He’s taking a laissez-faire approach to his output on both ends, Burks frankly looks a worse version than the player they had to pay the Pistons to take off their hands two years ago.

Young Miles McBride has completely outplayed him on both ends lately, but the question is who will Thibodeau turn to? His preference is always the experienced player, and he bizarrely talked openly about how well Burks played during 11 non-impactful minutes. Indicating he’s already made up his mind.

Now, I understand people will say, it’s too early to judge. However, this was a short-term trade which isn’t paying dividends. Burks is a free agent after this season, and Bogdanovic has an expiring contract in 2025- likely to be used in a trade this summer. This is their opportunity to carve out a role before the big guns get healthy, to make Thibodeau’s job easy for the playoffs. This begs the question, was it worth trading young Grimes or even little-used Malachi Flynn? As of right now, the squad misses their youthful energy and defense.

Bogdanovic Looking Uncomfortable With His Role

Bogdanovic cut a dejected figure shooting 0-7 against the Warriors. Largely because he’s asked to play off the bench in a second unit without a natural ball-handler. There is no shot creation on the court without Jalen Brunson. Thus, he and others are forcing their own shots out of rhythm. That’s the issue with Bogdanovic, he’s asked to play a role unfamiliar to him since he’s been a starter his whole career. If the Knicks thought Alec Burks would be the secondary ballhandler they were sadly mistaken. The Knicks are still paying the price for trading away Immanuel Quickley.

I’d recommend Thibodeau thinks about Bogdanovic in the starting lineup until Randle is healthy. There is no offense on the frontcourt without Randle, and it means teams are doubling Brunson. Only DiVincenzo can shoot in the rest of the first unit at present. This should be tweaked. Josh Hart is playing tremendously as the glue guy, Thibs is having him play all 48 minutes which is asking a lot. He doesn’t have a functioning outside shot at present – making court spacing a real issue. Bojan can solve that.

Bojan had his best game for the Knicks in their win against the Sixers two weeks ago going 6/6 from three. He’s been better than Burks, but his teammates need to make a concerted effort to find him open in rhythm which they aren’t doing effectively. Perhaps with the upcoming off-day, they can get time to practice and work on that.

Knicks Season At Risk Of Spiraling Due To Injuries

Brunson is carrying a massive role as their only shot-maker and only healthy All-Star. With that responsibility, means increased attention and taking a lot of hits in the process. There is a real risk that he may start to wear down with the load he’s carrying, whilst trying to keep this team afloat. At least until Randle can help carry the load. We’ve seen that with missing a game due to neck spasms.

Hartenstein has missed time, and he’s on a minutes restriction.

Mitchell Robinson has missed most of the season.

Julius Randle has a dislocated shoulder from where he got floored from a robust hit against Miami. Missing over a month to this point. He’s hoping to ramp up towards game action in the next two or three weeks. However, the real concern is that statistically there’s an 85% chance of his shoulder dislocating again with further contact to that shoulder – unless he has surgery. Surgery may be a real option either now or in the offseason. Making the chances of him playing at 100% for the playoffs look difficult.

OG Anunoby, the centerpiece to the Knicks trade activities, has missed more games than he’s actually worn a Knick jersey. He’s finally been cleared for activities without contact after his elbow procedure.

This was always the risk with his acquisition. He’s injury-prone. The Knicks traded two durable players in RJ Barrett and Quickley. The upside is that OG makes them fundamentally better on both ends of the court. What he offers is immeasurable…when he’s healthy. They’ve therefore sacrificed durability to improve their ceiling. How he rebounds from injury will decide if the risk paid off.

This team is undermanned and overwhelmed against better teams as it stands. If the losses and injuries continue, the Knicks season looks at risk of spiraling.

Does This Affect Their Ceiling?

As seen by their 14-2 January, when healthy, this team is an Eastern Conference finals threat. Health is far from guaranteed though. There’s an excellent Pacer team on their heels, unplayable at their free-flowing best. Plus the ’23 finalist Heat, and a physical Magic team that won their season series, it will take a huge effort to keep above them, avoiding a play-in tournament. There’s work to do, starting now.

Also, for whatever reason, back luck or injuries, this team has been playing worse since the Burks/Bogdanovic trade.

Perhaps one of the issues is moving guys from a last-place team to a playoff team certain bad habits are carrying over. For instance, Alec Burks hoisting low-percentage shots can be tolerated on a 9-win team. Whereas, it’s more glaring on a playoff contender. Neither addition has helped the team athletically or defensively. Considering this roster’s M.O. is to play defense, the fit isn’t great. Sacrificing a great young on-ball defender in Grimes for slower veterans.

Bogdanovic can still be a big piece to this team though. However, they need to do a better job finding a role that suits them. It’s incumbent on the Knicks not to waste his talent at the backend of the bench.

Much Rests On Randle’s shoulder

With that being said, a lot of this rests on Randle’s shoulder. He needs to come back sooner than later, healthy, with no setbacks. If the Knicks are to go on a run to the Finals- which they’re good enough to do, it rests on Randle’s dislocated shoulder.

Brunson has done an unreal job as an undersized guard taking massive hits every minute and still averaging nearly 30 points every game. He more than deserves an MVP vote or two. But anyone who questions Randle’s influence just needs to see how poorly they’ve played since he got hurt. He made another All-Star team for a reason. His 24 points and 9 rebounds is a huge miss on this team. Aside from the numbers, his sheer presence in the paint is a huge miss. He makes Brunson’s job easier and court spacing easier. With the Knicks season at risk of spiraling, it’s down to Randle and OG to come back and save the season.

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