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The most critical stretch of the Knicks’ schedule in 2017-18

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The tempo for the whole season could be set early

NBA: New York Knicks at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

It’s difficult to say what I want out of the 2017-18 season for the Knicks.

Should the team tank, and try to secure one of the many enticing prospects atop the 2018 draft class? Or would it be a better idea to maybe try to take advantage of the now-weakened (L)Eastern Conference and try to get Kristaps Porzingis and the boys some valuable experience in the playoffs?

Luckily, I think the NBA schedule makers took most of the guesswork out. It is my humble opinion that the track of the entire Knicks season could be decided in the first seven weeks of play.

When the 2017-18 schedule first came out earlier this week, I took a quick peek and thought, “Damn, the Knicks are going to get murdered the first month or so of the season.”

Then I saw this and realized I was probably right:

The Knicks have the seventh-hardest strength of schedule for October and November among all of the teams in the NBA. What teams will they be facing in that time?

— At Oklahoma City to open the season, where they could potentially get stomped by the reigning MVP on national television.

— Both matchups with Houston, one home, one away. May as well get the Melo torchings out of the way early, right?

— Two matchups with Cleveland, one at home and one away. May as well get the LeBron maulings out of the way early, right?

— Two games against Toronto. I’ll just leave this here.

— Games against probable playoff teams Detroit, Boston, Charlotte, Utah, the LA Clippers, Portland and Miami.

By my count, I think the Knicks could reasonably go 5-16 in that stretch. All of the aforementioned teams, plus a loss to the Hawks (a loss against an intentional tanker just feels inevitable) and a loss to the Nuggets.

That’s a shitty outlook though, right? Like, I don’t want the Knicks to lose. That’s no fun! So I’m going to entertain two possibilities, hopefully without getting too Bill Simmons erotic friend fiction-y.

Option 1: The Knicks end November with under five wins

Wednesday, November 29: You’ve just made what you believe to be your last post-Thanksgiving bowel movement after work (Aunt Gilda’s green bean casserole really, uh, stuck to the ribs this year). Luckily, you used Poo-pourri (look it up).

Unfortunately, you flip on MSG Network to see the grossest feces of them all — the kind where the Knicks poop all over the court. Worse yet, it’s the once-again-overachieving Heat — Dion Waiters is cruising towards his first career triple-double, Goran Dragic has what feels like 82 points, and Hassan Whiteside just grabbed his 18th rebound. Stephen A. Smith is autoerotiquely asphyxiating himself as he writes his monologue for Thursday’s First Take.

The Knicks suck. Again. But hey, just like last year, and in 2014-15, maybe this won’t be so bad! Now you can start fantasizing about Luka Doncic or Marvin Bagley in a Knicks uniform, tossing lobs to Kristaps Porzingis on the break!

Carmelo Anthony is long gone, and the Knicks now have a bit of a problem—Courtney Lee just posted a picture of Beavis and Butthead on social media after Jeff Hornacek (and his evil cohort Kurt Rambis) left Lee on the bench last game in favor of a Tim Hardaway Jr./Damyean Dotson shooting guard rotation, and Kyle O’Quinn has been doing good things with his limited minutes but just seems like too much of a luxury for this trash fire.

So what do the Knicks do here? Well, if it’s me, I’m willing to call the season quits at this point. Five wins would equate to a 5-16 record entering December. Stretched out over the course of the entire season, that’s about 26 wins, which would have been good for the third-worst record last season.

Now, to reference back to Dubin’s table, the Knicks in December and January have the 25th- and 24th-ranked strength of schedule. So they could bounce back, right? Maybe! But February yields their hardest month of the season, in arguably the most important part of a playoff push (right when you need to figure out whether to buy, sell or hold at the trade deadline). A bad start could (and probably would) end up as a season-long Fake Comeback, and that’s the worst kind of Fake Comeback.

If the winning’s not there right from the start, don’t fall for the trap, Knicks! Just take the mountain of Ls and reap the benefits later! Well, unless…

Option 2: The Knicks end November with 11 or more wins

Wednesday, November 29: Your first Christmas gifts just came in from your crafty Cyber Monday shopping (a Kindle Fire for $.99?! WHAT A DEAL!). You’re way ahead of things and have almost every bit of shopping done. Tonight, you’re sitting down with some scissors, a roll of tape and about a redwood’s worth of wrapping paper, because you are ahead of the damn curve. But you’re not the only one doing good stuff!

You flip on the TV, and the Knicks are de-freaking-molishing the Heat. Porzingis just captured Hassan Whiteside’s mortal soul by dunking over him — he can only be freed by saying “Edisetihw Nassah.” Shit, I just freed him. Oh wait, Porzingis just stole his soul back again. All good.

You never really expected this. These Melo-less Knicks are… good? They managed a split with Melo’s Rockets, which was no small feat. LeBron and Co. of course showed out for the Knicks and killed them, but a surprise upset of OKC on opening night really set the tone for the first month and change. Upsets over the Nuggets, Clippers, and now the Heat have given the Knicks 11 wins after the first month-plus, for a record of 11-10. But most importantly, the ’Bockers took out all of the teams that a good team should take care of — the Brooklyns, Atlantas and Sacramentos of the world. Things are looking up!

Wait, did I just say something else was most important? I take that back. You might be saying, “Six more wins, what’s the big deal?” Well, the most important part of coming out of November with a winning record is that these young Knicks now have confidence in themselves and their coach. They’ve beaten a few good teams, and now the easy part of the schedule in December and January can pave the way for a playoff run in February and March.

Oh, I’m just realizing there’s kind of a gap in my two theories, yeah?

Option 3: The Knicks end November with between six and 10 wins

31 wins, here we come!

Poll

How many wins will the Knicks have by December?

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    Five or less
    (106 votes)
  • 58%
    6-10
    (266 votes)
  • 17%
    11 or more
    (81 votes)
453 votes total Vote Now