Knicks’ backcourt appears to be future of franchise

RJ Barrett Knicks
RJ Barrett (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

With the 2023-24 NBA season just a week old, there are already some emerging trends to keep an eye on throughout the league. Whether it’s the Indiana Pacers having the best offense in the NBA or the San Antonio Spurs looking lost around Victor Wembenyama, this is the time of year for overreactions and bold predictions. In New York, it seems to be the dawn of a new era, where the Knicks’ backcourt is the strength of the team.

In the modern NBA, there is nothing more important than having a dynamic backcourt. Unless you have one of Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetoukounmpo, or Nikola Jokic, the championship core is built outside of the paint. That is exactly what it appears the Knicks are building this year.

RJ Barrett, Jalen Brunson, and Immanuel Quickley are the top three scorers currently on the Knicks, respectively. Barrett has taken the momentum and confidence he gained during the FIBA World Cup with Team Canada and become a next-level threat for New York. He has gotten to the rim and finished more effectively than in season’s past while improving his three-point shooting. This has opened up the Knicks’ offense as a whole, especially in the backcourt.

Barrett’s running mate, Brunson, has enjoyed the spoils of the attention Barrett demands. The point guard has turned into a lethal weapon beyond the arc, shooting 48% on over eight attempts per game. While this may not be sustainable for a full 82-game season, the current trend of how Barrett and Brunson play off one another will be a key piece of the Knicks’ offensive success going forward.

Jalen Brunson Knicks
Jalen Brunson (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Perhaps the most exciting and intriguing part of this backcourt puzzle is Quickley. Now in his fourth year in New York, he has shown improvement year after year. After a breakout season last year, he has shown it was not an anomaly and that he is here to stay. Quickley has perhaps the toughest job on the team as he takes the fourth-most shots, yet, averages the third-most points. 

With Quickley being the main scoring option on the second unit, he is often forced to carry the group offensively while also needing to hold his own on the defensive end. Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau has pushed Quickley time and time again and the Kentucky product has answered the bell every time.

He is also forced to constantly adapt to the team’s needs. Quickley started 21 out of the 81 games he appeared in last season, having to fill gaps when injuries occur. As a fringe starting five player and someone who is often on the court in crunchtime, Quickley’s ability to be a team player should not be overlooked.

Immanuel Quickley Knicks
Immanuel Quickley (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

The success of the backcourt has covered up the slow start of the Knicks frontcourt. Entering Tuesday’s play against the Cavaliers, Julius Randle had not contributed a significant amount on the offensive end given his volume. The forward is averaging 13.7 points per game on nearly 16 field goal attempts. While Randle demands a significant volume given his role, he will need to improve drastically or redistribute those shot attempts to his teammates around him. As Isaiah Hartenstein and Mitchell Robinson are averaging around six points per game apiece, it becomes abundantly clear the strength of this current Knicks team is the backcourt. 

As the season progresses, the development of the backcourt dynamic as well as the shot distribution for the Knicks as a whole will be something to watch out for. It may even determine how New York constructs their roster moving forward.

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