New York’s Wednesday’s loss against the Nets was especially tough. The team had gone on a mini-3 game win streak before dropping one to powerhouse Cleveland, and beating the Nets at home would have helped them get back on the playoff track. Instead they suffered a disheartening 115-89 defeat. At halftime the Knicks were only down by 11, but New Jersey expanded the lead slowly over the third quarter and the game slipped away from the Knicks. With under 4 minutes remaining and the win out of his grasp, Coach D’Antoni conceded the victory and brought in reserves Samb, Wilcox, and Nichols.
Looking at the standings New York is 3 games out of the 8th seed with 15 to play. But they would also have to leapfrog 4 other teams to accomplish that goal. Exactly one month ago New York’s chances to make the playoffs were 8.9%, but today it stands at a only 1.7%. Just to give a visual of how small those odds are, if we round them up to 2% the Knicks chances of making the playoffs it looks like this:
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Unfortunately the Knicks’ standings in the lottery haven’t improved much either. Back in February their chances of getting the overall pick was 1.3%, and today Basketball-Reference has them at 1.4%. While the playoff push was the right thing for D’Antoni to do, it seems that the time to get the 8th seed has come and gone. Much like the Nets game, the Knicks should concede the rest of the season and use the remaining 15 games to prepare for next year. One way is to allow Nate Robinson to be the starting point guard (which may have already occurred). Another is to give minutes to Wilcox, Curry (if healthy), Samb, and Nichols in order to better understand how they may help the team. For Wilcox and Curry getting court time might allow them to gain D’Antoni’s trust. For the latter two, getting minutes would help the front office determine if they are worthy of a roster spot.
And in the interim, playing the reserves would increase New York’s standings in the June draft. While the only team that they might realistically pass is Indiana (who is 1 game away from the Knicks), it’s just as important for New York to not allow any of the teams ahead of them to improve their draft day position. The Bucks, Bobcats, and Nets are all within 2 games of the Knicks. From any perspective the worst scenario would be New York passing all those teams in the standings without making the playoffs. If D’Antoni shifts his main focus from winning individual games to developing the end of his bench, New York would probably avoid such a undesirable fate.