ESPN’s stat-based win projection slightly sells Knicks short in 2023-24

With the New York Knicks returning a similar roster to the one that advanced to the second round of the playoffs in May, the team’s record in 2023-24 could look similar to 2022-23. New York’s 47-win total was the highest since the 2012-13 squad recorded 54 wins.

After a quiet offseason highlighted by the Donte DiVincenzo signing and Obi Toppin trade, the Knicks should still finish in the top six of the East. The Celtics and Bucks are supposed to sit atop the conference after their summer acquisitions, but if there’s one thing the Nets taught NBA fans, it’s to not believe it until you see it.

The Knicks could surpass their win total from last season, but according to ESPN’s stat-based win projections (subscription required), the team will come up short.

Is Tom Thibodeau to blame for the Knicks’ stat-based 2023-24 win projection?

Based on the projections, New York is tabbed to finish fifth in the East with an average win total of 44.6.

Despite retaining everyone but Obi Toppin from last year’s playoff rotation and adding Donte DiVincenzo to the mix, the Knicks could see their win total decrease because of health. Only the Sacramento Kings lost fewer games to injury or non-COVID-19 illness than New York’s total of 102 last season, per my tracking.

Boston (54.3), Cleveland (48.6), Milwaukee (48.5), and Philadelphia (46.9) are all ranked higher. All four teams finished above New York last season.

Tom Thibodeau is notorious for playing his starters high minutes, even if it’s a “meaningless” midweek game against a lowly non-conference opponent.

To start 2022-23 out, Quentin Grimes missed time with a left foot injury that worsened after he made his season debut in the Knicks’ preseason finale when he should’ve remained sidelined. Jalen Brunson and Mitchell Robinson were the two other starters who missed time throughout the season because of injuries, with the point guard playing in 68 games and the center playing in 59.

The seven-foot big man is the biggest injury concern based on his size and history, but Robinson did play in a career-high 72 games in 2021-22. His absence doesn’t hurt New York as bad as it once did since the front office signed Isaiah Hartenstein to a contract last summer. Still, the Knicks’ defense falters when Robinson isn’t on the floor because he’s the anchor.

Injuries can make or break a season for every team in the league. Load management is a concept that Thibodeau doesn’t believe in, and the NBA is cracking down on it this season with its new Player Participation Policy.

An 82-game season puts wear and tear on players’ bodies, and the goal is to make it to the playoffs and do so with a semi-healthy team. The road back to the postseason won’t be easy for New York, but it can be done. Thibodeau wasn’t going to suddenly prioritize rest for his team with or without the new policy, but it would help if he would pull in the reins when necessary.