Buy or Sell: The Knicks are contenders after a flurry of in-season deals

Feb 3, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) reacts during the
Feb 3, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) reacts during the / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a little over 50 years since the last time the New York Knicks won a championship and 25 since they last appeared in the NBA Finals. New York City is filled with passionate fans who desperately want to see their team hoist up the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Oddly enough, Jalen Brunson, a kid from New Brunswick, New Jersey, is leading the charge and has been a massive part in making the Knicks a contender again.

Top of the East

In the early part of the season, if you tried to map out the trajectory of the eastern conference, it was pretty straightforward—Celtics, Bucks, 76ers, and then everyone else. Now post-trade deadline, each team has some skepticism. 

The Celtics are number one in the East, but have these odd games and stretches that make you ponder. The most recent occurred last week, losing to the Lakers without All-Stars Lebron James and Anthony Davis at home as 15.5-point favorites. The Bucks can’t guard a soul and are ranked 20th in defense rating. They decided to move on from Adrian Griffin and hire Doc Rivers, who has been 1-6 since taking the job.

Lastly, the Sixers just lost former MVP Joel Embid to a meniscus injury, who was quite literally having the best offensive season in NBA history, averaging a staggering 38 points per 36 minutes. The team has lost four out of their last five, and Embid will be evaluated in four weeks.

The Knicks have seized the opportunity.

Amongst all of this, The Knicks acquired OG Anunoby in a deal that sent RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickly to the Raptors. Since the trade, they are 17-5 and had a stretch where they won ten in a row.

All-Star Julius Randle has been sidelined since 1/27/24 with a dislocated shoulder, but Brunson has been able to carry the load and had big-time games averaging 32.6 points in his last 10 and is playing as well as any guard in the NBA.

The Knicks won 14 games in January, the most for their franchise since 1968, and the city is alive again. On top of the team’s great play, Leon Rose continued to win with an excellent trade at the deadline.

The Knicks received Alec Burks and Bojan Bogdanovic for Quentin Grimes, Malachi Flynn, Evan Fournier, Ryan Arcidacono, and two second-round picks. This gives the Knicks some much-needed depth. Burks can take some of the stress off  Brunson, play out of the pick-and-roll, and defend at a high level. Brogdonvic gives them another offensive threat that can exploit mismatches, defend, and hit threes efficiently.

If there’s ever a concern with Thibbadeu-led teams, he relies too heavily on his starters, causing them to burn out in the postseason. Adding two capable starters off the bench gives him much more wiggle room during the regular season to preserve Brunson, Randle, and Anunoby.

Which would be beneficial, considering they are a little banged up currently. Randle is nursing his shoulder injury. Brunson missed last night's game against Dallas with an ankle injury, and Anunoby had a minor surgery on his elbow that will be re-evaluated in a few weeks. 

None of these injuries seem too threatening. Anunoby’s situation is the most frightening out of the three, but with the addition of Bogdonivc in his position, they should still be able to compete at a high level until he returns.

The Knicks are tied with the Bucks for third in the East and just two and a half games behind Cleveland for second. Seeding is crucial, three seed avoid the Celtics in a potential second-round matchup, and second seed would give them home-court advantage for two rounds.

This is a perfect opportunity for the Knicks to sneak out of the East and take their chances against a team from the West. This is a very deep and capable roster, and Brunson is making a case for All-NBA, showing he can put a team away and be the best player on the floor on any given night. The Knicks are back, and come playoffs, don’t fear anyone.