By John Schmeelk
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It’s a currency Knicks fans know well. It’s just about the only thing they’ve been able to trade in for the past 15 years. Besides one second-round playoff appearance in 2013, the common refrain for fans has seemingly always been: Next year will be better.
Whether it’s a new coach, general manager, an abundance of salary cap space or a high draft pick, Knicks fans are always searching for that silver bullet that will turn the franchise around.
Unfortunately, silver bullets are rare. The chance at landing LeBron James in free agency in 2010 was such a moment. That turned into Amar’e Stoudemire. Trading for Carmelo Anthony was another such moment, but due to the haul sent to Denver and subsequent misguided moves by the front office, he has only won one playoff series as a Knick.
The Knicks’ awful season two years ago was another such possibility. The Knicks had just 17 wins and finished with the second-worst record in the NBA. Yet, they landed the fourth pick in the draft lottery. It turned out finishing fourth instead of second or third was a blessing since all indications are they would have taken Jahlil Okafor or D’Angelo Russell instead of Kristaps Porzingis. Not finishing first that season (caused by winning meaningless games at the end of the season) did cost them the best young big man in the NBA: Karl-Anthony Towns.
This lottery drawing on Tuesday night is another chance for the Knicks’ fortunes to change for the better. Drawing a top-two pick wouldn’t make them title contenders next season, but it would give them a potentially great one-two combination of Kristaps Porzingis-Markelle Fultz/Lonzo Ball to build on. It would be one of the most meaningful “victories” this franchise has had in a decade in a half (as much as anything depending on ping pong balls and probability could be considered a victory).
The odds are not in the Knicks’ favor. They only have a 5.3 percent chance of landing the top pick and a 6 percent chance of finishing second. They actually have a better chance of moving down a spot and picking eighth (22.6 percent) than finishing in the top three (18.3 percent). Odds are they stay put and select seventh (57.2 percent). Knicks fans don’t need to be told not to get their hopes up given the team’s history.
The Knicks haven’t moved up in the lottery since 1985 when they got the No. 1 overall pick and drafted Patrick Ewing. The odds already betrayed them once this year when they lost the coin flip with the Timberwolves to see who would pick sixth and seventh if neither team moved up in the lottery. Sitting where they are there’s even a slender (1.8 percent) chance they drop to ninth or 10th.
All that said, this isn’t a top-three or bust situation for the Knicks. They are not the Lakers. The top 10 players in this draft are very strong and the Knicks will likely have a chance to select a future All-Star no matter where they pick. They just need to select the right player. It will just be a lot easier to find that player picking second or third than it would seventh or eighth. The chance of finding someone franchise altering in either of those two spots is remote.
As great as Fultz or Ball would be, there’s no guarantee (even though it’s likely) those two will be a better player than whomever the Knicks end up picking seventh or eighth. The Porzingis/Okafor/Russell situation from 2015 illustrates that in a slightly different but still fitting way. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was selected No. 2 overall in 2012 while Damian Lillard was picked sixth. Evan Turner went second in 2010, while DeMarcus Cousins went fifth and Gordon Hayward ninth.
When something could go wrong for the Knicks over the last 15 years, it has nearly every single time. But when the ping pong balls are put in the big glass jar on Tuesday night, Knicks fans will fool themselves into believing yet again. They’ll think this is the year the basketball gods make up for years of misery by moving them into the top two spots. This is the year it all changes. Tuesday night is the night it all starts. Fate owes the Knicks, right?
That’s the beauty of hope. One of these days, hope will become reality. As Walt “Clyde” Frazier sits on the stage on Tuesday Knicks fans will think that perhaps it might just happen.
- Everyone knew Kelly Olynyk was going to be the fourth-quarter difference maker that would lift the Celtics over the Wizards in Game 7, right? That’s why the playoffs can be so much fun. Unexpected heroes pop up all over. Olynyk should also send a thank you card to Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat, who were lost on their rotations and kept leaving him open. The Celtics have homecourt against the Cavaliers and a chance. I don’t think they’ll beat them, but I’m just hoping they can push Cleveland to a Game 7.
- I’m really annoyed Kawhi Leonard went down in Game 1 against the Warriors. If he stays healthy the Spurs probably hold on to win that game and, even if he missed Game 2, he would’ve been able to rest until Saturday with the Spurs hosting two games at home with the series tied. The series might have realistically went six or even seven games. Now there’s a much better chance it is done in five.
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