After starting of 5-36, including a stretch of losing 25 out of 26 games and a 16 game losing streak, the New York Knicks were in prime position to finish with the worst record in the NBA.
They continued to try and “win” the number one draft lottery position by trading J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert while waiving Samuel Dalembert, and receiving minimal returns, they are surprisingly 4-1 in their last five games.
This has raised them from 30th in the league to 28th, passing the Minnesota Timberwolves currently a half game behind the Philadelphia 76ers. They also put themselves in striking distance of the now Kobe-less Lakers, who are four games ahead of New York.
While winning appears to be a positive for this team and its fan base, many have pointed out that it’s just lowering the Knicks chances of landing the number one draft pick. With players such as Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns projected to declare for the NBA draft, the pick could change the franchise for years to come.
With the lottery system in place, the worst record in the league has a 100% certainty of being a top five pick, and a 25% chance of being number one. The odds gradually decrease to number 14, who have a .5% shot at the top spot. Despite the team with the worst record having a clear advantage, history has shown that it may be a disadvantage to have the highest odds.
The team in possession of the worst record hasn’t won the lottery since 2004 when the Orlando Magic won and selected Dwight Howard with the first pick. Since 1990 when the odds were in favor of the worst team, the team with the highest odds has only won three times. Even last year, the Cleveland Cavaliers had the ninth highest odds and won the lottery, going on to select Andrew Wiggins.
For four years in a row, the team in possession of the highest odds has had the second overall pick. The teams with the ninth, third, fourth, and fifth odds have won in those years.
Also, unlike in years past, so far there hasn’t been one prospect who’s been hailed the clear cut top prospect. There’s no Andrew Wiggins, no Anthony Davis, and no John Wall who were destined for greatness. This year it’s still unknown who will be the number one pick, with the top contenders being Jahlil Okafor, Emmanuel Muiday, and Karl-Anthony Towns. Players like Stanley Johnson and D’Angello Russell fill out a talented top tier for lottery teams to look at.
While the odds clearly show that finishing with the worst record in the league will give them the best shot at the coveted top pick, recent lottery outcomes show quite the contrary. So the Knicks winning ways shouldn’t be a concern for a draft standpoint, for now.
The winning could also help lure in free agent options. Being historically bad would not help their pursuit of guys like Marc Gasol whatsoever. If the Knicks can actually pull of some wins, it could help their cause.
Also, the Knicks winning ways should come to an abrupt end soon. They had a brutal schedule from mid-December to January, causing them to lose so often. Having a weaker portion, the Knicks are winning. Look at who they’ve beat. The Thunder and Pelicans, two borderline playoff teams in the standings, who both played without their best player (Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis, respectively). And then the Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers, two bottom feeders in the league.
While tanking may be the best option for the Knicks, going on a minor winning streak could be beneficial too. It’s good for the fans, keeps player morale up, and could help convince free agents to look over the Knicks, while helping their draft odds at the same time.