This morning, the New York Knicks sit at a literal (secondary definition!) crossroads: a game over .500, just a half-game behind 8th-seeded Miami, just 1.5 games behind 4th-seeded Detroit, just 2 games above the 10th-seed. If the season ended today, the Knicks would miss the playoffs and have the worst lottery odds of all the non-playoff squadrons. ¡Qué Knicks!
Obviously the standings still have a lot of time to evolve. Cleveland sits third, but is favored to leapfrog Toronto and maybe Boston, too. The Pistons are one spot ahead of the Wizards, yet I’d take whatever odds that Washington passes them by the All-Star break. Houston started the season setting the world on fire, but their current three-game losing streak is probably the only misstep Golden State needed to lap them in the race for tops in the West.
Which fork do you hope the Knicks’ season takes? 40 wins and a 2-vs.-7 match-up with Boston or Cleveland, plus a mid-first round draft pick? Or 31 wins, a fifth playoff-less year in a row, and the 7th pick in June? The Knicks have 49 games left (49 = 7 x 7 = numerology, yo). Throw down or build up: who ya got?
Osama Hamed: I'd love for the Knicks to make the 7th seed and rub it in every "sports analyst" face out there. Everyone chalked off this team and, much like all of the resilient fighters on it, it should have the right to prove everyone wrong. Everyone in New York loves a true underdog story and this team can bring that with the 7th seed. Even more excitingly, as the 7th seed they'd have the chance to play the Cavs or the Celtics in a first round matchup. Although I like the Cleveland matchup better positionally, the Celtics match up will potentially be spicy af.
This team doesn't need any more scorers in the top of the draft. We have several scorers, and much like we see with the value added by Frank Ntilikina, we need more glue guys. A 3 and D wing can be had in the middle of the draft, and that is the Knicks' strongest need. And even if we needed a scorer, the top 2 scoring rookies this year were drafted 13th and 27th.
This city deserves a playoff spot. Last year I didn't want to see the Knicks in the playoffs because the team was full of personalities that made it difficult to root for. Now we have a squad of young underdogs that are willing to fight and put it all on the line every single night. Imagine Enes Kanter battling with the likes of Al Horford or LeBron James. Imagine Kristaps Porzingis hitting a turnaround fadeaway over Marcus friggin’ Smart. Imagine Frank stealing the ball right out of Kyrie Irving's hands and passing it up court for a Doug McDermott dunk. This team needs growth and chemistry, not more losses. 7th seed all the way, baby!
Alex Wolfe: This question is hard, and honestly it feels like I manage to flip-flop on it daily, but I think as of right now (and probably for the rest of the season), I’d prefer the seventh pick to the seventh seed.
Hold your tomatoes! It’s not like that. I don’t want the Knicks to lose. Rather, I’m conditioned to think that they will, and I’m so at peace with that outcome that it’s become the logical solution to me. The unfortunate, stark reality of this season is this -- this hot start, the magical 17-16 record that the Knicks have accumulated… it might be fool’s gold. The Knicks will play 20 out of 29 games on the road until the end of February. Yes, the road, the same place where the Knicks are 2-10 this season (one of which was a win at the Knicks’ home away from home in Barclays Center). If history tells us anything, it’s that the Knicks and January mix together about as well as oil and vinegar. Therefore, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that regression is almost definitely going to happen, and that that’s totally OK.
The 2018 draft class, while initially looking like it would be top-heavy, now seems pretty deep. And luckily for the Knicks, the players available in the 5-10 range feature a number of wing players (undoubtedly their biggest need). Former potential top pick Michael Porter Jr. is sidelined for the whole 2017-18 season with a torn ACL, and that injury has sunk top picks down the draft order in the past. Michigan State’s Miles Bridges and Duke’s Kevin Knox look like they could be more than decent next to Kristap Porzingis as a 3/4 defensive forward with some offensive upside. And if this is finally the goddamn year that the lotto gods smile upon the Knicks, maybe you even luck into a top-three pick and select Luka Doncic. Either way, when it comes to contention, this team is at least a wing player away. For that reason, I think the seventh pick would be my preferred outcome this year.
...that said, I’d still be hype as hell if the Knicks make the playoffs.
MMiranda: Maybe I’m Charlie Brown and the regular season is Lucy holding the football. Maybe my poor eyesight blinds me to the false dawn of yet another respectable start destined to crash and burn (four years ago a 2-13 slide derailed New York’s campaign; three years ago they lost 26 out of 27 to cement the Kristaps tank; two years ago a 22-22 start was sabotaged by 11 losses in 12 games; last season’s 16-13 start gave way to losing 9 out of 10). Maybe subconsciously I want the best draft choice possible, and I feel karmically the Knicks should hold their heads up high and fight to the bitter end, that such a noble failing is the only way we can finally move up in the draft for the first time since Donald Trump was a parochial punchline instead of a global goblin (no offense to goblins).
Or maybe...maybe I feel like the Knicks struck gold two lotteries ago, and made out fine last year, and maybe...maybe they’re good going forward. For once this team is built around young talent. For once those talents are complementary. This isn’t Stephon Marbury and Steve Francis, both small guards who needed the ball in their hands to be productive. This isn’t Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, both scoring forwards best slotted up one spot but blocked from their ideal position (Melo by both STAT and his own reticence to play the 4; STAT by Tyson Chandler at the 5). This isn’t Andrea Bargnani and everyone else on Earth.
The Knicks are built on a big who scores and block shots and a non-big who likes to pass and play defense. You know what? I’m good. I’m good with that. Sign me up. Banking on ping pong balls and teenagers panning out isn’t any more secure than banking on cap space and summer sweepstakes. Get the snap down, Lucy. I’m ready.
Stingy: Give me all the best picks there are! I really dislike the changes that are set for the 2019 lottery. So this year represents the last time under the old rules (which I like but don’t love) and that means there’s still a decent chance to freeze the envelopes en route to a top three pick.
I’m not a huge proponent of shutting everyone down for any and all injuries and letting the rest of the squad shuffle out and get steamed nightly. However the fact of the matter is that the Knicks are going to be trending upward as long as they have these beautiful, growing boys in Porzingis and Ntilikina. No matter how loaded a draft class is it gets harder to hit the further you go from the top of the chart. Continued success is in the cards here. It's just, look around you! There's a haphazard cap sheet the next few seasons and Kristaps is likely to get all of the moneys (not to mention the inevitable Kanter overpay); it’s really looking like the last chance to sneak away with some high potential youngsters. So I'm all in. Just be the Knicks we know they are for one more pitiful season and then turn on the flames.
Here’s my Big Board:
3. Luka Doncic
4. Mo Bamba
5. ....ehhhhh.... Marvin Bagley
6. Collin Sexton / Trae Young / DeAndre Ayton, I suppose?
7. Yves Pons
8. JP Macura
37. Michael Porter Jr.
Those are our musings, fam. Share and share alike.