The New York Knicks have so far been one of the biggest surprise packages in the NBA. Finishing with a 47-35 record, they finished fifth in the Eastern Conference to comfortably claim a place in the playoffs. This, despite analysts and pundits predicting in preseason that a play-in tournament appearance would be the best they could hope for in 2023. A great run of form in December saw them go on an eight-game win-streak with convincing victories over the Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks. As of writing, they are 3-1 in their first round series against the Cleveland Cavaliers as they look set to reach the semifinals for the first time since 2013 and just the third time since the turn of the millennium. DraftKings Sportsbook have them as relative outsiders at +4000 but they have made a habit already this season of defying expectations and will no doubt have the belief that they can continue to do so. But how do they compare to previous Knicks teams?
This Knicks side is certainly the best we have seen in the last 10 years. That 2013 side finished 2nd in the East with Carmelo Anthony starring throughout the season. He averaged 28.7ppg and set a franchise record of 31 consecutive games played with 20+ points, lasting from November 16 against the Grizzlies and ending on February 2 against the Kings. J. R. Smith and Raymond Felton complimented the Knicks’ attack that season with 17.7 and 14.2ppg respectively and they established themselves as one of the best scoring teams in the entire league. However, one thing that let them down in 2013 was their defending which, while not awful, was middling at best. They were below average in rebounding, and it eventually caught up to them when they crashed out of the semifinals at the hands of the Indiana Pacers. This is an area where this current Knicks team are superior. Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson are both great off the board with the former averaging 10.0 in the regular season. They are also spoiled for choice with scorers between Randle, RJ Barrett and Jalen Brunson who averaged 25.1, 19.6 and 24.0 apiece. Despite the 2013 side finishing as the higher seed, this current New York team likely reigns supreme.
When talking of all time great Knicks sides you have a whole host to choose from in the 90s. between 1990 and 2000 they reached at least the Semifinals every season and it is almost unbelievable that they were never able to win a championship in that time. The 93-94 side reached the finals and had a thrilling series with the Houston Rockets. Led by Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing along with stars like Anthony Mason, John Starks, and Charles Oakley, they went shot-for-shot with the Hakeem Olujawon led Rockets but ultimately lost in an agonizing game 7. Despite falling short, this collective is largely recognized as one of the greatest in franchise history and at the time had the most feared defense in the league. However, when comparing the shooting numbers, the current Knicks side actually claims bragging rights. When comparing the top 5 scorers of each team the 93-94 side averaged 15.3 whilst in 2023 they average 19.0. This is without a skewed metric as well when considering the leading scorers of each side. Patrick Ewing’s 24.5ppg led their charts in 1994 with Julius Randle only shooting at an average 0.6 higher in 2023.
When talking about the all time greatest team however, it has to come down to one of the Willis Reed starring teams of the 60s and 70s. With him at the forefront, the reached the finals three times and won twice. It likely has to be the 1969-70 team that stands at the top. They began the season at 23-1, including 18 straight victories, and finished 60-22. Reed averaged a double-double per game with 21.7ppg and 13.9rpg to win the MVP award that year. Walt Frazier, Bill Bradley and Dave DeBusschere all starred here as well to make up one of the most star-studded Knicks rosters of all time. Whilst this current Knicks team is impressive, they have some way to go before they can reach the heights that the team of 1970 reached and they certainly set the bar extremely high.
To conclude, this Knicks side has certainly become one of the most impressive in the last 20+ years and they have done so against all odds. Randle and Brunson are an absolute force on the court and have been the talismen of the team so far this season. It may be time for the doubters to start considering the Knicks as major contenders this season as they continue to defy the odds and prove their naysayers wrong.