Elite Sports NY will examine for you the top three contending teams for the fourth spot in the NBA Draft Lottery.
The race for the NBA Draft Lottery’s ping pong balls is in full gear.
This is the first of three articles looking at the last remaining games of these three bottom-dwelling teams. The Orlando Magic predictions and Philadelphia 76ers predictions are upcoming. Without further ado, the first team:
New York Knicks (27-43)
The Knicks are 3-7 in the month of March with two losses to the Brooklyn Nets. To make matters worse — or better if you’re in team tank mode — the Knicks play one of the most difficult schedules in the league to close the season.
March 22 @ Utah Jazz
West Coast trips have not been kind to the Knicks over the past few seasons. They just came off a loss against the Clippers in Staples Center, a place they have not won for seven years and now they play Utah, a place they have not won in since 2014. The Jazz are coming off a road-stretch with three straight losses to Cleveland, Chicago and Indiana. Some home-cooking will do them good.
March 23 @ Portland Trail Blazers
A back-to-back in one of the hardest places to play in the NBA. Add the fact that the Derrick Rose, who sports a 111.3 defensive rating, will be guarding Damian Lillard, and you have a recipe for disaster.
March 25 @ San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs are 26-7 at the AT&T Center. The Knicks allow the tenth most points off pick and roll men in the NBA. The Spurs use the pick and roll man at the fifth highest percentage in the NBA. Oh, and they are the Spurs. This will not end well for New York.
March 27 vs Detroit Pistons
Both these teams have exchanged wins back and fourth over the past eight games, with no team being able to put together a winning streak. The last game was a 20-point win for the Pistons in the Palace at Auburn Hills. The Knicks, however, have shown an ability to bounce back against the Pistons. With a game against the Spurs, the NBA’s second best defense according to Defensive Rating, the Knicks could be tentative offensively. With a good defensive team in Detroit, this will only exacerbate that issue.
March 29 vs Miami Heat
The Heat will be playing the Pistons on March 28. Both teams are battling for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference at the moment. March 28 will likely be a physically-draining game for both teams. On March 29, the Heat come to the Garden. They are currently 3-6 on back-to-back games. The Knicks may just catch the Heat at the right time.
March 31 @ Miami Heat
Erik Spoelstra is one of the top coaches in the NBA. He’s up there with the likes of Greg Popovich, Steve Kerr and Brad Stevens. The Heat are in the middle of a playoff race. They will not drop two in a row to New York.
April 2 vs Boston Celtics
The Knicks were able to defeat the Celtics in January to get their first win of the season series. The caveat here is that Avery Bradley was not playing, and thus, Rose went for 30 points. Boston presents a rough matchup for NY. Most notably at the point, where Isaiah Thomas is averaging almost 32 PPG. With Bradley mitigating Rose’s offensive output and Thomas’ scoring prowess, Boston presents too much skill for New York.
April 4 vs Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls present an intriguing matchup for New York. With Dwyane Wade gone, Jimmy Butler has stepped up big time. He is averaging 29.3 points per game in three games since Wade’s injury. It’s tough to predict how the Bulls will play in the long run without Wade. At home, it’s fair to give the Bulls, who will have the best player on the court, the benefit of the doubt.
April 6 vs Washington Wizards
It’s the time of year for teams to make one last playoff push. The Wizards, at this point of the season, will be fighting off the Toronto Raptors for the three seed, and possibly competing with Boston for the two seed. In a series the Wizards have dominated recently (12 of the last 13), John Wall and company will continue to inch toward the top of the Eastern Conference.
April 7 @ Memphis Grizzlies
The Memphis Grizzlies are one of the most physical teams in the NBA. 11.9 percent of the Memphis’ shot attempts are in the post, most in the NBA. They are not the team you want to play as a second game of a back-to-back. A tired Knicks team simply will not be able to compete with the physicality of the Grizzlies.
April 9 vs Toronto Raptors
Just like the aforementioned Wizards, the Raptors will be competing for seeding in the Eastern Conference. This will be Toronto’s second to last game of the season, but with a trip to Cleveland in Toronto’s season finale looming, they need this win.
April 12 vs Philadelphia 76ers
The Knicks will be coming into their season finale with a six-game losing streak. The NBA scheduling gods came up clutch with this matchup. This will be the tank-a-thon to end all tank-a-thons. Philadelphia has no shame when it comes to tanking while New York loves to win meaningless games. They will sneak out of this with a “win,” if anyone would like to call it that.
2017 NBA Draft Lottery:
4. Sixers: Predicted Win/Loss: 28-54
5. Knicks: Predicted Win/Loss: 29-53
6. Magic: Predicted Win/Loss: 30-52