3 Reasons Knicks will finish as a top three seed in the East

Los Angeles Clippers v New York Knicks
Los Angeles Clippers v New York Knicks / Rich Schultz/GettyImages
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1: RJ Barrett's breakout season

It's no secret that RJ Barrett has gotten off to the best start of his career. In his seven appearances this season, the 23-year-old is averaging 22.6 points and 3.1 assists per game. Those are his best marks as a pro in each category.

He's also shooting 49% from the field. While Barrett's 50% mark from three almost certainly isn't sustainable, his 85% shooting on free throws suggests that he's turned a corner in terms of the consistency of his shot mechanics.

The former third overall pick in 2019 has improved several facets of his game. He's a far more engaged defender both on and off the ball, using his 6'10" wingspan to disrupt passing lanes while getting caught ball-watching less often.

After averaging 0.8 deflections per 36 minutes last season, he's averaging 1.3 per 36 minutes in 2023-24.

Barrett's development will be key to determining the Knicks' ceiling, and will also influence team president Leon Rose's thinking when New York is inevitably looking for a star player to acquire via trade to pair alongside Jalen Brunson.

With the Knicks having a relatively quiet offseason, the front office was counting on the development of the team's young core alongside a full season of Josh Hart to propel New York to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.

Barrett and Mitchell Robinson have already shown that they're taking leaps, while Immanuel Quickley has continued his strong play, which means New York is now positioned to do exactly that.