Is this Knicks team the best New York has seen this century?

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Julius Randle Knicks
New York Knicks forward Julius Randle gestures after dunking on the Washington Wizards in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Feb. 24, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

On Wednesday, the Knicks further staked their claim to being the best team in New York by throttling the Nets 142-118. The win improved their winning streak to six in a row and moved New York to just 1.5 games behind Cleveland for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. It’s also caused many to wonder if this Knicks team is a legitimate contender. 

However, the bigger question to ask is: is this the best Knicks team of the century?


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While that may seem like an outlandish statement, the truth of the matter is that the futility of the Knicks over the last 20+ years has set the bar lower than expected. In fact, this Knicks team already has the third-best winning percentage of any Knicks team since the 2000-2001 season

So when we’re asking if this is the best Knicks team of the century, we’re really only asking if this team is better than the 2000-01 team and the 2012-13 team. 

Let’s start with lineup comparisons, just for fun. 

  2000-01 2012-13 2022-2023
PG Mark Jackson Raymond Felton Jalen Brunson
SG Allan Houston Jason Kidd (PG) Quentin Grimes
SF Latrell Sprewell Iman Shumpert RJ Barrett
PF Larry Johnson Carmelo Anthony Julius Randle
C Marcus Camby Tyson Chandler Mitchell Robinson
Bench 1 Glen Rice J.R. Smith Immanuel Quickley
Bench 2 Chris Childs Amar’e Stoudemire Josh Hart
Bench 3 Kurt Thomas Pablo Prigioni Isiah Hartenstein
Bench 4 Charlie Ward Steve Novak Obi Toppin

That 2012-13 Knicks team was interesting in terms of their rotation because they had a lot of players like Marcus Camby, Rasheed Wallace, Kenyon Martin, Kurt Thomas, and James White who didn’t play a full season, so it’s hard to pinpoint a specific season-long rotation. 

Carmelo Anthony controls the ball as a member of the Knicks in 2017
Carmelo Anthony controls the ball as a member of the Knicks in 2017. WikiMedia Commons

While looking at the rotations is nice, it doesn’t tell us much about which team was better on the court. So let’s dive into some statistical comparisons. 

  2000-01 2012-13 2022-2023
Pts/game (Lg Rank) 88.7 (28th) 100.0 (11th) 115.1 (13th)
Opp Pts/game (Lg Rank) 86.1 (1st) 95.7 (7th) 112.0 (8th)
Off Ranking  19th 3rd 4th
Def Ranking  3rd 18th 13th 
eFG% (Lg Rank) 47.6% (11th) 51.5% (8th) 53.4% (21st)
3pt% (Lg Rank) 35.1% (14th) 37.6% (5th) 35.1% (22nd)
Off Turnover% (Lg Rank) 14.6% (19th) 11.7% (1st) 11.4% (3rd)
Def Turnover% (Lg Rank) 14.7% (8th) 14.8% (4th) 11.3% (23rd)
 Strength of Schedule  28th 7th 11th 

First of all, let’s just acknowledge the way NBA scoring has changed over the decades.

The Knicks have had a top-10 defense in terms of points allowed per game in each of these seasons, but those totals increase dramatically with each team. Obviously, some of this is that the league has changed the rules to provide more offense, but it’s still crazy to see it written out like that. 

In terms of comparing the teams, I think we can eliminate the 2000-01 team from consideration as the Best Knicks Team of the Century for a few reasons. 

For one, its .585 winning percentage is not that much better than the current team’s .569 mark, and there is a strong case that the current team will wind up surpassing this by the time this season is over. The disparity in the strength of schedule also stands out as the 2000 Knicks team had one of the easiest schedules in the entire NBA that year. 

While its defense was close to elite, it left a lot to be desired on the offensive end, and both the 2012-13 and current team are more balanced. The 2000-01 team shot the ball a little better than the current Knicks do but they also took far fewer three-point shots per game (13.6 compared to this year’s 35.1), which is due to the different style of NBA game.

Hold on. Let’s just look at those totals. This year’s Knicks are 8th in the NBA with 35.1 three-point attempts per game. The 2000-01 Knicks were 13th in the league with just 13.6 attempts per game. Sometimes the changes in the way the game is being played really catch your eye when you see it written out, but it’s also clear why the 2000-01 version of the Knicks would have a better overall field goal percentage. 

Lastly, we can eliminate that team from consideration because of their poor turnover rate on offense. When stacked against the other teams, it just doesn’t match up. 

So the question of who is the best Knicks team of the century comes down to 2012-13 and this year’s team. However, we’ve also mentioned that this year’s Knicks have been drastically different since changing up their rotations on December 4th, so to give them a fair shake, let’s compare the two teams with the post-December 4th numbers. 

  2012-13 2022-2023 (Post Dec 4th)
Pts/game (Lg Rank) 100.0 (11th) 115.4 (14th)
Opp Pts/game (Lg Rank) 95.7 (7th) 109.3 (3rd)
Off Ranking  3rd 3rd
Def Ranking  18th 7th 
eFG% (Lg Rank) 51.5% (8th) 54.5% (18th)
3pt% (Lg Rank) 37.6% (5th) 36.9% (12th)
Off Turnover% (Lg Rank) 11.7% (1st) 12.8% (5th)
Def Turnover% (Lg Rank) 14.8% (4th) 12.2% (27th)
 Strength of Schedule  7th 11th 

Even with the new parameters, there is some minor improvement in the defensive rating and shooting ratings but not enough to drastically move the needle for me.

As it currently stands, the 2012-13 Knicks team remains the best of the century. 

The first box checked for that team is that it has the best winning percentage. It also faced a harder schedule to achieve that winning percentage. It was a better shooting team than the current Knicks and also was significantly better at forcing turnovers and taking care of the ball. 

This current New York team is slightly more well-balanced and has the better defense overall, so there is a chance that it can catch last decade’s team once this season is done; however, the strength of schedule is only going to get worse based on upcoming games and this team has shown an inability to force turnovers. That hasn’t changed even with the addition of Josh Hart since they rank 29th over the last six games. 

However, at the end of the day, the statistical comparison won’t be the one that matters the most. The 2012-13 Knicks team finish first in the Atlantic but lost in the Eastern Conference Semi-finals to the Indiana Pacers in six games. If this current team can claw its way deeper into the playoffs, then we might have a changing of the guard at the top. 

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Jalen Brunson Knicks
New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) shoots a 3-point basket past New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum (3) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)