Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Basketball season is almost here and the New York Knicks are ready for their first consecutive playoff seasons in a decade. Sure enough, New York kicked off its preseason in style with a 114-107 win over the rival Celtics’ reserves.

It doesn’t matter that the preseason is overall meaningless. The Knicks are serious this year. They’re running it back and want more than a trip to the East Semifinals. The team looks ready, prepared, and reloaded.

That means coach Tom Thibodeau is tasked with avoiding a repeat of the 2021-22 season and keeping his men on the same page. The Knicks have lots of talent with lots to contribute this year. Let’s go through the key players in the rotation and set their goals for 2023-24.

Jalen Brunson: Keep scoring, keep leading. Brunson was everything the fans hoped he would be and more in his first year as a Knick, averaging 24 points and 6.2 assists and shooting a career-best 41.7% from three. This time, he should aim for more of the same while continuing to lead this young New York team. Brunson should also aim to increase his scoring by a point or two to keep up with Damian Lillard, his new Eastern Conference rival.

Quentin Grimes: Less 3, more D. Grimes almost doubled his scoring in his second season, but at the expense of his defense. His defensive box plus/minus (DBPM) dipped to 0.1 from 0.9 as a rookie. We all know Grimes can hit threes as needed, but defense should be his priority this season. Josh Hart can’t do it by himself.

Josh Hart: Be the biggest pest in the NBA. And speaking of Hart, he doesn’t really have to change his game at all. He was the Knicks’ best spark plug after arriving from Portland in a trade and was a dream swingman. This year, he just needs to provide that same lockdown defense off the bench and score as needed. If he can talk some trash and frustrate the opposition, all the better.

Mitchell Robinson: Just stay healthy. It’s a shame Robinson’s health is always an issue. When he is healthy, he’s one of the most dominant bigs in the game. He continued to keep the fouls down last year and also set a career high with 9.4 rebounds per game. This year, it’s about maintaining that production along with his body.

RJ Barrett: Just go out and play. Barrett was streaky last year and saw his three-point shooting take an unprecedented step back. He found his stroke in the playoffs, but clearly had issues keeping up in the regular season. Whether it was struggling to find chemistry with Brunson or just learning how to play with an actual point guard for the first time, Barrett has one goal this season. Just play his game, forget the threes for a minute, and trust himself with the ball in his hands.

Donte DiVincenzo: Shoot the Garden’s lights out. Brunson and Hart’s longtime Villanova teammate came to New York as a much-needed shooter. The Knicks ranked 19th in team three-point shooting and DiVincenzo shot nearly 40% from three in Golden State last year. He just needs to keep that up in New York along with his strong on-ball defense.

Immanuel Quickley: Earn that big contract. Quickley had a career year last season and enters the last year of his rookie contract as an extension candidate. The Knicks have until October 24 to re-sign him, but nothing is imminent. Some say he could even be worth upwards of $20 million a year if he keeps improving this year. Whether he stays a Knick or joins a new team as a restricted free agent, Quickley deserves his big payday.

Julius Randle: Keep that foot on the gas pedal. Everyone has hailed Randle as the Knicks’ “engine” on offense, at least until he vanished in the playoffs last year. Injured ankle or not, the legendary Randle motor suddenly ran out of gas, especially on defense. The good news is Randle looks to be in great shape and seems doubly motivated this year. So long as he keeps playing and producing at a high level, the rest of the Knicks will follow.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.