James Wiseman, LaMelo Ball
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

With the NBA season going on hiatus, the New York Knicks are in a precarious position for draft lottery purposes.

Danny Small

The New York Knicks went into the NBA’s coronavirus hiatus with an uplifting win. The Atlanta Hawks and Trae Young almost pulled off a stunning second-half comeback, but the Knicks sealed the deal in overtime. Major contributions from RJ Barrett can be the lasting memory for Knicks fans as basketball grinds to a halt.

However, despite the morale-boosting win, the Knicks are now in an unenviable spot when it comes to the draft lottery. The victory pushed New York (21-45) further ahead of Atlanta (20-47) in standings. A loss would have resulted in the Knicks possessing a tie for the fourth-worst record in the league. But the win moved the Knicks down to sixth-worst.

(via Tankathon.com)

Although last year’s quantum leaps from the New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies showed that anything can happen with the new lottery odds, Knicks fans should brace for the worst.

By winning, the Knicks’ chances at a top-four pick dropped by 10.9%. They currently sport a better than one in three chance to climb into the top four, but that steep drop from four to six is significant.

Another way to look at it is that the team with the fourth-best lottery odds (Atlanta) has an 81.1% chance at a top-six pick. By comparison, the team with sixth-best lottery odds (New York) only has a 45.8% chance at a top-six pick.

Despite the percentages, the Knicks will take a 26-point night from Barrett any chance they can get it. While the draft order obviously matters—see Stephen Curry in 2009—the best teams consistently hit on draft picks no matter where they pick.

Wherever the Knicks end up, they’ll need to draft a player they think can fit the long-term plan of the organization. Of course, that long-term vision still needs some fleshing out. Team president Leon Rose officially took over on March 2 and although he had no immediate plans to make a change at head coach or general manager yet, the hiatus puts the Knicks in an odd position.

It’s likely that Rose will want to bring in his own people to serve in both positions. General manager Scott Perry doesn’t seem long for New York and the writing was on the wall when Steve Mills was reassigned.

Interim head coach Mike Miller, on the other hand, is acquitting himself well during this rollercoaster season. He deserves a look from the front office as the full-time head coach, but there’s a possibility that he stays on as a high-level assistant for the next head coach.

The point is, the Knicks still have staffing decisions to make before the draft even takes place. The new GM and head coach will obviously want to have extensive input in who the team selects in the draft.

What about the elephant in the room? What if the lottery gods finally smile upon the Knicks and the No. 1 overall pick belongs to New York?

Unfortunately, even that dream scenario would leave the Knicks with at least some feeling of uncertainty. The 2019 NBA Draft was easy to predict at the top—Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, and RJ Barrett. That was the expected order as soon as the college season finished and the teams at the top did not deviate from the plan.

The 2020 class is not so clear cut. Big man James Wiseman, who only played a handful of games for Memphis in college, is one of the trendy picks to go No. 1 overall. The Knicks already believe they have the next great center of the future in Mitchell Robinson. Wiseman would seem like overkill.

After Wiseman, there’s Israeli 19-year-old Deni Avdija, LaMelo Ball, and Anthony Edwards. There are a few more players who could sneak in there, but again, there are no standout studs like Williamson and Morant from a year earlier. A trade down might even sound enticing to the Knicks should they land the top pick.

Although we don’t even know when the draft is going to be this year, a cloud of uncertainty lingers over Leon Rose’s first draft at the helm of the Knicks. If the NBA returns with plans to finish the regular season—or at least a portion of it—the Knicks could climb even higher in the standings. And thus, moving even further from a top pick in the draft.

NYY

NYM

NYG

NYJ

NYK

BKN

NYR

NYI

NJD

SJU