The New York Knicks will begin the 2022-23 NBA season in 28 days against the Grizzlies in Memphis. After a long, tiring offseason for Knicks fans, the light at the end of the tunnel is finally visible.
With the season around the corner, ESPN released its annual “NBArank” on Tuesday, which counts down the top players in the league. Essentially, these rankings don’t matter, but it’s always entertaining to see who falls where.
On Tuesday, Nos. 100-26 were announced, with Atlanta’s Bogdan Bogdanovic coming in at No. 100 and Milwaukee’s Jrue Holiday at No. 26. While NBA fans wait to see ESPN’s ranking for Nos. 1-25, let’s look at where four Knicks players landed.
Did ESPN rank Knicks players fairly in its 12th annual NBArank?
No. 98: Mitchell Robinson
Coming in hot at No. 98 is Mitchell Robinson, who signed a four-year, $60 million deal with New York in free agency. In 2021, the center was listed at No. 93, so he dropped down five spots this year. However, there’s reason to believe that the 24-year-old is set to have his best season yet.
ESPN questioned how much Jalen Brunson’s arrival will benefit Robinson, given that over the past few years New York’s starting point guard has ranged between Elfrid Payton, Kemba Walker, and Alec Burks. So, yes, Brunson suiting up for the Knicks will not only prevent the fan base from another year of suffering over the point guard position, but he’ll also help set Robinson up for better looks.
Robinson’s No. 98 ranking is justifiable, but don’t be surprised to see his name higher up on the list ahead of the 2023-24 season.
No. 71: Julius Randle
To no surprise, Julius Randle fell from No. 42 in 2021 to No. 71 in ESPN’s latest ranking. After the All-Star, All-NBA season that the forward had in 2020-21, his performance last season was severely disappointing.
If Randle can return to a version of the player that he was two seasons ago, New York will no doubt be a better team, but it’s hard to envision the 27-year-old returning back to an All-Star form. In the Knicks’ starting lineup, there are three players that like to have the ball in their hands (Randle, Brunson, and Barrett), so Randle will have to learn to take more of a backseat role. It’s yet to be determined if he’s willing to do so.
Hopefully next year, Randle won’t fall out of the top 100 entirely, but for now, No. 71 is a solid spot for him to be.
No. 67: Jalen Brunson
Next up is none other than the Knicks’ new point guard Jalen Brunson at No. 67, who finds his name on the list for the first time in his four years in the league. The 26-year-old got a massive payday over the summer by signing a four-year, $104 million contract with New York.
He’s coming off the best year of his career, which included helping the Dallas Mavericks make it to the Western Conference Finals, but since signing with the Knicks, he’s been labeled as ‘overrated.’ Now that Brunson won’t be playing in the shadow of Luka Doncic, he’ll have a prime opportunity to silence his doubters.
Brunson is listed two spots below Russell Westbrook, who undoubtedly has a more storied career than Brunson, but Westbrook won’t have a better season than Brunson in 2022-23. Okay, let’s carry on.
No. 63: RJ Barrett
RJ Barrett is the top-ranked Knicks player at No. 63, four spots above Brunson. And like Brunson, this year is Barrett’s first time being included in ESPN’s ranking.
After being included in proposals for Donovan Mitchell, New York signed Barrett to a four-year, $120 million extension. The face of the franchise belongs to that of the 22-year-old.
Shortly after the Knicks’ season ended in April, Barrett said that one of his goals for the 2022-23 season is to be an All-Star. Fans outside of New York seem to not believe that Barrett will reach that status, but for those who have been watching him progress since he was drafted in 2019, it wouldn’t be a surprise if RJ earned his first All-Star honor in 2023.
There have been questions about Miami’s Tyler Herro being listed two spots ahead of Barrett on the list at No. 61. The two have been compared to one another ever since the 2019 NBA Draft, but if RJ manages to be named an All-Star while leading the Knicks beyond the play-in tournament, those comparisons should stop.
This time next year, expect RJ Barrett to make his way up the ladder in ESPN’s Top 100 ranking.