Previewing the NBA Draft Lottery

On Tuesday, May 19, the fates of 14 NBA teams will be dramatically affected by a few ping pong balls. It’s the most tense time of year for NBA teams: the draft lottery. And for the first time in what seems like forever, the Knicks have a lot to gain and a good amount to loose as the lottery approaches.

The Knicks had the second worst record in the NBA in 204-15, which gives them a 19.9% chance at the top overall pick. The Minnesota Timberwolves, who were a game worse, have a 25% chance at the top overall selection. Here’s a look at who is involved, from a player and management standpoint.

Phil Jackson, the Knicks head of basketball operations, will be crossing his fingers for the number one pick, or at least a top-4 pick. During the pre-draft process, four players have really stood out as elite: Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor, Emmanuel Mudiay, and D’Angelo Russell. 

Towns is a 7’0” hybrid big man, who can play the 4 or the 5. He didn’t put up huge numbers at Kentucky because of John Calipari’s rotating system, but he still had some great moments. Towns is super athletic and a great defender, who could one day anchor an NBA defense. His offense is underrated as well; his jump hook got better as the season progressed, and he was massively efficient during the NCAA Tournament.

Okafor is one of the most polished big men to come out of college in a long time. At the offensive end, he’s almost unstoppable, and should hover around the 20 points per game mark for the prime of his NBA career. With a large arsenal of low post moves and phenomenal footwork, Okafor appears the most NBA ready prospect the draft has to offer. There are questions about his athleticism and defense, but at least you know what you’re getting.

Mudiay is a bit of an enigma, playing and starring in China before getting hot. He’s a brilliant athlete who uses his athleticism to get to the rim, and uses his size to read defenses. His jumper is poor, and his defense sometimes lacks effort, but he has an incredibly high ceiling. He just needs to fix his jumper and improve on his effort, and he could be among the NBA’s elite at point guard.

Russell is consistently knocked for his lack of athleticism, but he’s still an incredibly dangerous player. He has the ability to score from anywhere, whether it be spot up shooting, drives to the basket, or shooting off the dribble. He also is the best pure point guard in the draft, capable of running an NBA offense from Day 1. His basketball IQ and feel for the game also set him apart.

The final pieces to the lottery puzzle are Justice Winslow and Willy Cauley-Stein. These are the Knicks worst case scenarios, because New York is guaranteed at least a top five pick. Winslow is a fantastic defender with a solid jumper, capable of being a 3-and-D player on a very good team. Cauley-Stein can act as a defensive anchor at center, something the Knicks desperately need. He’s a tremendous athlete, and can fit into the center of any defense.

General manager Steve Mills will represent the team at the Lottery, which will take place tomorrow night.

Best case scenario is the Knicks get the first pick, obviously. That means Karl-Anthony Towns. If they get pick 2, it’s likely they go Okafor. If they get three, it’s a toss up between Mudiay and Russell. If they get 4, they select whoever wasn’t drafted out of the two of them. Worst case is pick 5, where they either take Winslow, take Cauley-Stein, or trade the pick.

Here are the Knicks odds:

1st Pick: 19.9%

2nd Pick: 18.8%

3rd Pick: 17.1%

4th Pick: 31.9%

5th Pick: 12.3%

Whatever happens, you can be sure it has massive significance on the direction of the Knicks franchise. No pressure, though.


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