Jeff Van Gundy once coached the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets, and now an ESPN analyst is calling out the flaws of the Kicks’ roster.
In a telephone interview with New York Post “The Knicks have good players, but you’re competing in the East, and this roster isn’t at the same level,” he said, speaking to the media outside his home club.
“They could shock the world and be a playoff team, but I look at the East and I have to say eight to 13 is a predictable place. They are not even close to a game lock. A lot should go right. “
His assessment is correct. The Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers are loaded. Not to mention, the Brooklyn Nets still have Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.
“I’m not saying anything negative about those guys,” Van Gundy said of Julius Randle, RJ Barrett and Jalen Brunson.
“Randle made the All-Star team, they hope Barrett continues to be a more efficient player. Jalen is in that fringe all-star category.”
“That said, if you want to make a significant jump in the Eastern Conference – when you have [Boston’s Jayson] Tatum, [Jaylen] brown, [Brooklyn’s Kevin] Durant, [Milwaukee’s Giannis] Antetokounmpo, [Miami’s Jimmy] Butler and [James] Strong and [Joel] Embiid in Philly, you need a top-20 player in the league. That’s what you build around. They are still looking for that,” he said.
Jeff Van Gundy: “Knicks are not the same as Celtics, 76ers”
In July, former Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson signed a four-year, $104 million contract with the Knicks. In 79 games last season, the fourth-year player averaged 16.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game.
It will be interesting to see Brunson play without Luka Doncic by his side. Barrett and Randle are still good players, but the former Mavericks guard may struggle without the Slovenian All-Star.
During the offseason, the Knicks also signed center Isaiah Hartenstein. And the team re-signed center Mitchell Robinson to a four-year deal worth nearly $60 million.
Of course, Kemba Walker, Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel were traded to the Detroit Pistons. Knicks GM Scott Perry had to unload players to clear cap space to sign Brunson.
Van Gundy later said, “One thing everyone can agree on is that if the Knicks want to jump up the ladder, they’re going to have to have a guy — or two guys — to build around. They still don’t have that building block in terms of a star player.
The Knicks should prove the doubters wrong in the 2022-23 season. At the time, the Utah Jazz tried to trade guard Donovan Mitchell, but team executive Danny Ainge demanded a better package.
Then the Cleveland Cavaliers pulled the rug out from under them. They traded Lauri Markkanen, Collin Sexton, Ochai Agbagi, three unexpected first-round draft picks (2025, 2027, and 2029) and two pick swaps (2026 and 2028) for Mitchell.
Last season, the Knicks finished 37-45 (.451) and 11th overall in the Eastern Conference. However, the team is definitely capable of at least qualifying for the playoffs next season. Only time will tell if Jeff Van Gundy is right.