It’s Lottery Night. Or is it Groundhog’s day? For the Knicks, there really isn’t any difference.
It has been 35 years since the Knicks won the NBA Draft Lottery and selected Patrick Ewing. Despite all seven teams in the lottery having equal odds to earn the top pick that season (14.29%), the turn of good luck has been met with conspiracy theories ranging from a frozen to a bent envelope so the NBA could gift the Knicks with a transcendent star in Patrick Ewing.
Since then, the Knicks have not moved up in the lottery. Not once. They’ve had their own pick in the lottery 10 times since the Ewing draft. They have picked worse than their lottery slot five of the ten times they owned their own pick. The other five times, they selected where the odds dictated. Sadly, the team traded away their own lottery pick six times since then, but none of those picks improved from their lottery standing either.
I wonder where all the conspiracy theories are to explain why the Knicks have managed to have no luck in the lottery for the past 35 years? Perhaps there was some kind of contract with some entity from the lower planes that cursed the Knicks in exchange for Ewing? Maybe the duration of the contract for payment rendered was for 35 years?
Knicks fans have certainly paid their dues in pain and suffering. No more penance is necessary. These are the players the Knicks have missed on by only a slot or two because they either dropped or stayed put in the lottery: Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, Stephen Curry, Kevin Love, and Russell Westbrook.
Maybe, finally, the Knicks luck might turn? Hah, never! It’s the Knicks!
This year, the Knicks will need plenty of luck. Here are their odds for lottery night.
Team 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th
Warriors 14% 13.4% 12.7% 12% 47.9%
Cavaliers 14% 13.4% 12.7% 12% 27.8% 20%
Timberwolves 14% 13.4% 12.7% 12% 14.8% 26% 7%
Pistons 10.5% 10.5% 10.6% 10.5% 2.2% 19.6% 26.7% 8.7% .6%
Knicks 9.0% 9.2% 9.4% 9.6% 8.6% 29.8% 20.6% 3.7%
Bulls 7.5% 7.8% 8.1% 8.5% 19.7% 34.1% 12.9%
Despite having the fifth-worst record in the NBA, the Knicks have a nearly 63 percent chance of selecting sixth or worse. It leaves a 37 percent chance of picking in the top four. Knicks fans understand that their 37 percent chance is really more like 3.7 percent or maybe 0.37 percent. No one really thinks that’s going to happen, do they? Ping pong balls and the Knicks do not get along.
It’s a shame because luck plays a huge part in the NBA. During the same span where the Knicks have failed to move up in the lottery once, other teams have moved up many spots to get franchise players at the top of the draft. The Pelicans got Anthony Davis, the Cavaliers drafted Kyrie Irving, the Pelicans got Zion Williamson and the Grizzlies moved to second to draft Ja Morant despite not being one of the worst teams in the league. Luck matters, and the Knicks have had none of it.
This draft, however, does not feature the type of near can’t-miss player at the top of the draft that others do. Players like LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edwards have the potential to be great NBA players, but there is a lot of risk with any selection at the top of this particular draft. It would be the Knicks’ luck to finally move up when there is no foundational player available in the class. In other words, there will be something to complain about no matter what happens. Welcome to life as a Knicks fans.
Jokes aside, even with the risk involved in drafting prospects like LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edwards, a chance to add a player to the roster with the talent to become a potential star is something the Knicks desperately need. No one on their roster has the high-end talent of either of those players. Ball, if his jump shot and shot selection comes around, can be an elite point guard, and Edwards has the physical gifts to be a top scorer in the league. The Knicks don’t have players with that high level of potential.
Even if the Knicks’ talent evaluators like Leon Rose, Scott Perry, and Walt Perrin aren’t sold on either Ball or Edwards, they could trade down and net extra draft picks in future seasons or add more young talent to the roster. It gives the franchise a high-level asset and provides them a lot of flexibility moving forward.
Usually Knicks fans have to deal with 82 games of horrible basketball to get to the point where they have the chance to draft an impact player. The only good thing about 2020 is that Knicks fans only had to watch 66 games of inept play. The light at the end of the tunnel is still the draft. The payment for months of losses is the chance to draft a really good player that could turn around the prospects of the franchise around.
How good? That is in the hands of fate. Will the ping pong balls find a number the Knicks hold, giving them their choice of the 2021 litter, or will they only get what’s left when their turn comes? Will Leon Rose, the Knicks’ representative at the virtual lottery, be a good luck charm, or just another meme for Knicks disappointment?
A 37.2 percent chance to pick in the top four isn’t strong odds, but it isn’t small either. How confident did you feel about DJ LeMahieu getting a hit last year on any given at-bat? Well the Knicks have almost a five percent better chance of moving into the top four than the Yankees did of LeMahieu getting a hit last year (he hit .327).
Bodgan Bogdanovic hit 37.2 percent of his three-pointers this season. You feel good when he shoots a three, right? Well the Knicks have the same chance of moving into the top four as he did of making a three-point shot this year.
It seems possible, doesn’t it? Maybe it’s not likely, but certainly not out of the realm of possibility. In fact, the Knicks are due, aren’t they? This is bound to happen sooner or later. Maybe this is the year. Perhaps there is reason to have hope, or even be optimistic. It’s time to believe.
No, wait, I’m sorry, it’s the Knicks, where hope goes to die. Don’t fall for it. Don’t let hope enter your heart. If you do, by Thursday night at 9 p.m., it will be full of nothing but the same thing you feel after nearly every Knicks game: bitter disappointment.
(Has this entire article been a journey of trying to achieve some kind of reverse jinx? Yes. Yes it has. It will fail.)