The NBA Playoffs is down to its final four, which means 26 other franchises are in the middle of draft preparations.
The Knicks, based on their dreadful 17-65 campaign, were essentially in draft mode for months. But with a 19.9-percent chance of winning Tuesday’s Draft Lottery (8:30 p.m., ESPN), it’s imperative that they get as close to the No. 1 pick as possible, considering there aren’t many franchise-changing players, according to most scouts.
While the draft is loaded with potentially very good talent, there are only a handful of players who scouts deem as “impact players” that can single-handedly change a franchise’s fortunes for years.
The Big 2are Jahlil Okafor, of Duke, and Karl-Anthony Towns, of Kentucky. Don’t look for anyone other than the aforementioned duo to be the primary targets of team president Phil Jackson.
New York can’t finish any worse than the No. 5 pick. And should they be bestowed that slot, it could be used as a possible trade chip, since Jackson has enough roster maneuverability (just four guys under contract) and cap space (upwards of $26 million) to make some bold moves.
Jackson even admitted that anything is possible with the pick, especially if they lose out on Okafor or Towns, noting the team will “consider everything” once the ping-pong balls are decided.
The Knicks have a 55-percent chance at getting a top three overall pick. And they own a 38-percent chance to get a top-two pick. That’s not a lot of margin for error when counting on being lucky enough to get one of the top two picks.
While most Knicks fans were disappointed withnot finishing with the worst record in the league – they finished second behind the Minnesota Timberwolves – they should take solace that the team that has done the worst in the regular season hasn’t won the lottery in years. The last time it happened was in 2004, when the Orlando Magic (21-61) nabbed Dwight Howard.
The last time the second-worst team struck it rich, the Los Angeles Clippers (19-63) selected Blake Griffin with the No. 1 overall pick in 2009.
So, there’s hope, Knicks fans.But don’t hold your breath.
-Should the Knicks end up with either of the top two picks, Jackson will need to meditate and decide whether he wants the immediate surer thing in the polished Okafor, or does he think long-term, roll the dice, and select the athletic and versatile Towns? Sources say he’s leaning slightly towards the defensive-minded and versatile Towns. Either way, Tuesday night will go a long way into gleaming the Knicks’ intentions.
-A total of 14 ping pong balls go in the machine and fight it out for a possible 1,001 combinations.
-General manager Steve Mills will represent the Knicks at the NBA Lottery.
-The last time the Knicks were in the lottery was 2009, when they were represented by former Knick Allan Houston, who is now the team’s assistant general manager, and New York baseball legend Reggie Jackson.
-The last time the Knicks won the Draft Lottery was in 1985 – the very first year of the current system, and a controversial occurrence — when Hall of Famer Dave DeBusschere represented the team and they later selected Patrick Ewing.
-The Knicks’ brass was in Chicago for the NBA draft combine, but neither Okafor nor Towns were present.
-Jackson and Co. did get the chance to poke, prod, and work out other top prospects like Frank Kaminsky of Wisconsin, D’Angelo Russell of Ohio State, Justise Winslow of Duke, Kelly Oubre of Kansas, and Jerian Grant of Notre Dame.
-Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein reportedly worked out for the Knicks on Sunday.