It’s been over two decades since Jeff Van Gundy was the head coach of the New York Knicks. Since then, the Knicks have made it to the playoffs five times, but in the past nine seasons, New York has made it to the postseason once. And Van Gundy, who’s now an ESPN analyst, thinks that the team making the playoffs would be shocking.
New York added point guard Jalen Brunson in free agency, who will certainly help the team, but didn’t trade for Donovan Mitchell. The Knicks finished out of reach of the play-in tournament in 2021-22 and based on how the Eastern Conference looks, New York could end up fighting for a spot in the play-in this season.
After last season came to an end, RJ Barrett said that his goal for the Knicks is for the team to make it back to the playoffs. He signed a four-year extension with New York last week, and with the Knicks not trading for Mitchell, the team is Barrett’s.
Even with the improvements that New York’s made this summer (and Van Gundy acknowledged that), he said that if the Knicks are still standing at the end of the season, it will “shock the world.”
Former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy believes the team will ‘shock the world’ if they make the playoffs
Here’s what Van Gundy told Marc Berman of the New York Post:
"“The Knicks have good players, but you line it up against the competition in the East, and this roster is not on the same level,’’ Van Gundy told The Post in a phone interview from his Houston home. “They could shock the world and be a playoff team, but I look at the East and I’d have to say eight to 13 is where they should be predicted. They’re not even close to a lock for the play-in. A lot has to go right.’’"
That’s a realistic take. Regardless of how you feel about the Knicks not getting Donovan Mitchell, the truth is that the Cleveland Cavaliers got better by trading for him. That doesn’t mean that New York should be viewed as the ‘loser’ for not getting him, but Mitchell moving to the Eastern Conference only makes things more difficult for the Knicks.
You can expect for the Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, and the Philadelphia Sixers to sit atop the conference, followed by the Cavaliers, Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks, and the Toronto Raptors (in no particular order). That’s nine teams that should finish above New York. If that is how the standings look at the end of the regular season, the Knicks would be in the play-in tournament as the No. 10 seed.
None of this is to say that New York isn’t going to be better than last season, but the team has some very tough competition in their conference and their division. It would be shocking if New York finished in the top six of the conference to earn an automatic playoff berth, but it wouldn’t be as shocking if the Knicks were in the play-in tournament.
As we all know, it’s a long 82-game season and there’s a lot that can happen. New York could end up surprising a lot of people…