The New York Knicks have Zion Williamson on the mind by default, but that doesn’t mean they’re completely gone from the NBA Playoffs story.
What if I told you that the New York Knicks decide the fate of which eastern conference team is going to be swept by the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the playoffs? Pretty exciting stuff, am I right?
Seriously though, a playoff appearance is quite important for all of these teams. The Heat want to give Dwyane Wade one last playoff send-off, the Magic have multiple young players that need to experience playoff basketball for the first time, and the Pistons have yet to test out their Griffin-Drummond frontcourt in a playoff series.
Plus, who wouldn’t love one of those “earned” Nike jerseys?
So how do the Knicks play into this race? Well, luckily for me and every other Knicks watcher, they have one game versus all three of these teams before the seasons’ end. And considering the Knicks have securely positioned themselves with the worst record in the league, I think we’re safe to root for a few wins down the final stretch.
Now, let’s preview how the Knicks can drag everyone down with them over the next week.
Knicks vs. Heat
The Heat are the embodiment of an average NBA team. Their veterans are solid but nothing special. Their young players know their roles but definitely aren’t franchise cornerstones. The highs are never too high and the lows are never too low. But then you look at the Knicks and see a team with one serviceable veteran who is just going through the motions (DeAndre Jordan) and a bunch of young bucks wetting their feet in the jungle that is the NBA. Basically, the Knicks are overmatched.
But, naturally, a lot of young players means a lot of wildcards And that’s what the Knicks have. On any given night, Allonzo Trier can give you 30 points on 13-20 shooting or five points on 2-11 shooting. The same goes for Kevin Knox (to some extent). Then there’s Damyean Dotson who (to my knowledge) has not missed a shot in the past month. Also, one of Mario Hezonja‘s random bursts of greatness wouldn’t hurt.
Basically, we know the Heat are going to be well coached and execute in late game situations. So if the Knicks can get their wildcards to perform, they are going to have to run and gun their way to a win.
Knicks @ Magic
For whatever reason, this game is much more worrisome than the one against Miami. Nikola Vucevic has the ability to basically take DeAndre Jordan completely out of the game by stretching the floor which clears the lane for Aaron Gordon which opens the perimeter for Jonathan Isaac and Evan Fournier. However, none of that matters because the Magic really don’t care about offense. They’re a Steve Clifford led team. Defense is their bread and butter. And for the Knicks, that is their worst nightmare.
New York is essentially so bad at defense that any team can score at will. So even if Trier, Knox, Smith Jr., and Dotson are on their “A” game, the Magic can neutralize them. They’ve ranked second in defensive rating since the all-star break and in their last 10 games, they’ve allowed their opponent to score over 100 points just once. To me, of the three fighting for a playoff spot, this is the Knicks toughest opponent.
Knicks vs. Detroit
The last game of the season. Honestly, by this point, the Pistons could very likely have already clinched a playoff spot. But for the sake of the preview, let’s assume they haven’t.
So going by the premises we have set, the Pistons playoff fate would lie entirely on this one game. And what better way for the Knicks young core to imprint their potential into our brains than sending the team out with a win? The only problem is that everyone is most likely mentally checked out considering they’ve won one game in the past month.
Regardless, my hope is still alive. DeAndre Jordon and Andre Drummond more or less cancel each other out, Reggie Jackson is as streaky of a player as you can find, and Blake Griffin has to match up against Noah Vonleh, the quintessential example of pure athleticism and dominance.
So although I think the Knicks have the capability of beating all three of these teams (once again I’m very optimistic), realistically I would say their best chance is booting the Heat out of the race. With that said, all focus now shifts towards Zion, preparing for the worst, and how to keep James Dolan from bringing his band to Kevin Durant‘s free agency meeting.