For the past two decades, the New York Knicks have tended to start most seasons in one of two places. Most of the time, they're coming off of a disappointing season. The Knicks have made the playoffs just six times in the past 20 years. On the other end of the spectrum are the series headlined by superstar rumors or acquisitions. The Knicks are the NBA's perpetual big-game hunters, and when things are going well, it usually means they've reeled in a big fish.
The 2023-24 season, though, starts on a different note. Those starry ambitions still exist, and will almost certainly be realized at some point in the near future. But the Knicks are coming off of one of their most successful seasons in years. They just won their first playoff series since 2013, and even if reinforcements are coming, the plan for now is to emphasize continuity. Head coach Tom Thibodeau confirmed that he will keep Quentin Grimes in the starting shooting guard slot to open training camp, suggesting that the team plans to stick with the same five-man unit of Grimes, Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson and RJ Barrett that won them so many games last season.
"It's hard to argue with a with a 37-22 record and a plus five net rating," Thibodeau said at Knicks media day Monday. That group played 526 minutes together last season and outscored opponents by 72 points in that span, the ninth-best mark of any five-man lineup in the assoication last season. The bench will remain largely intact as well, with the only significant change coming with the addition of Donte DiVincenzo to essentially replace the traded Obi Toppin. If necessary, though, even Barrett, a veteran starter, volunteered for bench duty, if necessary.
"Whatever we need to do to win is what we'll do ... if that's what I have to do, then I'll do it. I'm very willing and glad to," the fifth-year forward said. Though Thibodeau is unlikely to take Barrett up on that offer, the numbers suggest he should be tempted. Replace Barrett with Sixth Man of the Year runner-up Immanuel Quickley and that group's net rating jumps from plus-6.7 to plus-7.8. Iterations of the lineup with mid-season addition Josh Hart, albeit in a smaller sample, were even better.
It is the deepest roster Thibodeau has had with the Knicks, and as Barrett's words made clear, his most malleable. For the first time in quite some time, the Knicks enter a season with expectations and without egos or drama. They have success to build on, and so far, all indications suggest that they're going to do so.