Kevin Durant, Zion Williamson, James Dolan
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

With the season more or less over at the start of December, the New York Knicks are destined for another night of waiting on ping pong balls.

Danny Small

The New York Knicks are only five games out of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, but they might as well be 500 games out. There are no playoff hopes for this flailing group.

This is a familiar spot for the organization and to make matters worse, they already understand the risks of tanking away another season. By punting on fielding a competitive team in 2018-19, the Knicks were hoping to land the first overall pick—Zion Williamson.

With two max slots available for the cream of the crop in free agency, the summer of 2019 was supposed to be a breeze. Kevin Durant would be making his residence in Madison Square Garden with whomever he chose to bring along for the ride.


It was a foolproof plan until it wasn’t. And although the summer of 2019 ended in disappointment for the Knicks, the summer of 2020 is looking like deja vu all over again.

Lottery Odds

The Knicks will likely have some of the best odds to land the top pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. The bottom three teams in the league all have a 14% chance at the No. 1 selection, per Tankathon.

With those same odds in 2019, the 17-65 Knicks dropped to third in the lottery and the 33-49 New Orleans Pelicans shot all the way up to the top spot despite having less favorable odds. Furthermore, the 33-49 Memphis Grizzlies were also able to leapfrog the Knicks for the No. 2 pick which would eventually become Ja Morant.

In other words, the lottery is a crapshoot and finishing with the worst record in the league is not worth the same as it used to be.

With all that said, RJ Barrett should develop into a star down the line. But his trajectory doesn’t change the fact that the Knicks missed out on Williamson and Morant, two potential franchise-changers who were the clear choices over Barrett.

It’s too early to forecast this upcoming draft class, but there should be a number of good point guards available near the top. Although that’s good news for the Knicks, there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to draft the guy they want.

As Knicks fans know, the lottery gods are cruel and leaving your fate up to them is a risky proposition.

Attracting Stars

The formula of losing as many games as possible doesn’t seem to attract many superstar players. Go figure, huh?

A big part of the 2019-20 season was supposed to revolve around building a culture, attitude, and a new identity in New York. The Knicks didn’t make any playoff predictions, but they did say they were going to compete on a nightly basis and refuse to back down against anybody.

After a 44-point loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, the Knicks are now 4-17 with eight of those losses coming by double-digits. To make matters worse, six of those losses have come by more than 20 points. The beatdown in Milwaukee is undoubtedly the low point in the season.

Of course, the Knicks were lauded for maintaining cap flexibility going forward. That way, when the right star became available, they would be ready to pounce.

But if another win total in the teens is in the cards, why would any free agent want to play for the Knicks. The narrative of wanting to play in New York is tired and antiquated. Perhaps they could throw a boatload of money at a player like Bogdan Bogdanovic or Brandon Ingram, but is that really the solution to all the problems at 4 Penn Plaza?

In Closing

So where do the Knicks go from here? The lottery is a game of chance and praying for a free agent savior is an even more hopeless endeavor.

Quick fixes are rare in the world of rebuilding a professional sports franchise. Long and painful processes are usually the norm. It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel of this current rebuild in New York as the plan foisted onto fans is crumbling in every way possible.

Prepare for a long and arduous process before the Knicks are back in the playoffs, much less an NBA Finals.

 

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