Leave it to the New York Knicks to reaffirm the notion that they can’t do anything right.
After Kristaps Porzingis’ season-ending injury on Feb. 6, just before the NBA trade deadline, it was expected for the Knicks to mail it in for the rest of the season. At the time, they were 23-32, on a four-game losing streak and five games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
While no one used the dreaded word “tank,” which we learned gets you in trouble if you mention it (sorry, Mark Cuban), New York performed exactly how one would expect it to without the star Latvian.
The four-game losing streak evolved into a monster slump in which the Knicks lost 17-of-18 games heading into St. Patrick’s Day weekend.
While the on-court product has been difficult to watch, it was the best possible result for the team’s future.
The more losses avalanching on the team’s record, the better chance the Knicks would get a higher pick in the 2018 NBA Draft’s lottery. After that 18-game stretch, a 24-45 Knicks team was just four games ahead of the Atlanta Hawks for the worst record in the Eastern Conference and six ahead of the tanking Memphis Grizzlies, the league’s worst team.
In typical Knicks fashion though, things went wrong by going right.
New York has won its last two games, the latest coming over the equally-hapless Chicago Bulls on Monday night. The Bulls were a game behind the Knicks in the East with the conference’s fourth-worst record.
A comprehensive 18-point win at Madison Square Garden doubled New York’s cushion over Chicago in the standings as their chances at the top pick in the draft lessen. Tim Hardaway Jr.’s 22 points led the way while Michael Beasly added 17 and Enes Kanter recorded yet another double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Entering Tuesday night, eight teams are now behind the Knicks in the standings, leaving them closer to the bottom of the lottery and increasing their chances of losing out on an elite talent that could help with the rebuild.
It all depends on what the team needs. The backcourt seems full with Emmanuel Mudiay entering the fray, forcing the team to tinker with the possibility of moving Frank Ntilikina to the 2. Tim Hardaway Jr. is also a viable option at shooting guard, but will likely continue his role as the team’s small forward.
With Porzings and Kanter locking down the small forward and center spots, the Knicks’ best options in the draft are either a point guard, should Mudiay or Trey Burke not work, or a forward that could play either the 3 or 4.
Oklahoma star point guard Trae Young could fall to the Knicks at No. 9 should they want to add another point guard to the mix. But they might miss out on two of the best forwards in Villanova’s Mikal Bridges and Michigan State’s Miles Bridges, who are projected to go within the top six or seven selections.
If the Knicks don’t want to leave all their options open, the formula is simple: Start losing again.