The final draft picks are displayed during the 2018 NBA draft lottery on May 15, 2018, at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago.

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Schmeelk: Knicks Desperate For Top Pick Ahead Of Reformed NBA Draft Lottery

John Schmeelk
April 08, 2019 - 1:58 pm
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Knicks Clinch Worst Record

With only two games remaining on the schedule, the Knicks will either finish with the worst or second-worst record in franchise history. There is a silver lining. Unlike in 2014-2015, when the Knicks finished with 17 wins, they will also finish with the worst record in the NBA, which gives them the best possible odds in the NBA Draft Lottery.

Of course, because they are still the New York Knicks, they managed to achieve this feat in the worst possible year in recent NBA history. This is the first year the NBA is trying out a far less weighted lottery odds system.

The teams with the three worst records in the league all have identical odds for the top four picks in the draft, with the only difference being in the odds for selecting fifth and beyond. Here are the Knicks odds.

Related:

Knicks 2019 Lottery Odds

1st Pick: 14%

2nd Pick: 13.4%

3rd Pick: 12.7%

4th Pick: 12%

5th Pick: 47.9%

If the Knicks would have had the worst record in last year’s lottery, the numbers would have been much more advantageous.

Past Lottery Odds For Team With Worst Record

1st Pick: 25%

2nd Pick: 21.5%

3rd Pick: 17.8%

4th Pick: 35.7%

Not only would the Knicks have had a 10% better chance of selecting first, 19% better chance of picking in the top two and a 25% better shot at selecting in the top three, it also would have been impossible for the Knicks to pick outside the top four. Those odds had the potential to be vital in what was widely considered to be a top-heavy draft.

While last season’s draft looks like one of the strongest near the top in recent memory, this year’s is decidedly weak. Aside from Zion Williamson, there’s a real chance that every prospect from this year’s class would rank outside last year’s five best picks. Ja Morant’s upside might interject him into the conversation, but probably not on most draft boards.

It makes the lottery exceedingly important for the Knicks. There is only one high probability perennial All-Star in the class in Williamson. It’s likely another player will end up fitting that description, but finding him will be difficult.

Williamson stands alone above the rest of the class, with some mix of Ja Morant, Duke teammate RJ Barrett and Jarrett Culver likely to be in the next group for most teams. After that, a player some teams have ranked fifth, could be ranked 12th for another team, and vice versa. Selecting fifth would be a nightmare for the Knicks, with a trade either further down into the first round, or for a veteran player (Anthony Davis?) perhaps then becoming the best option.

With a 47.9% chance (slightly worse than a coin flip) of picking fifth, the Knicks are not in a very enviable position. No one has better odds than they do, but their 14% shot of getting the near surefire franchise player they so desperately need is depressingly small.

The team’s draft history isn’t reassuring. While everyone remembers the year the Knicks were fortunate enough to move up two spots to get the top pick in the draft to select Patrick Ewing, the Knicks luck since has been just as bad as it was good in 1985. Since then, they have not moved higher than what their lottery odds dictated.

In 2015, the Knicks had the second-worst record in the league, but still only picked fourth. Even when they selected Frank Ntilikina eighth in 2017, they moved down one slot on lottery night. They’ve picked lower than their draft slot four out of the other eight times when they’ve made the selection, according to Real GM. Perhaps this is the year the worm turns, but Knicks fans have every reason to be pessimistic.

The Knicks are trying to build their franchise from scratch this offseason. It starts on lottery night, and much like this offseason when the Knicks are courting free agents, they will have no control over what the results will ultimately be.

You can follow John on Twitter (@Schmeelk) for everything about the Knicks, Giants and the world of sports. You can also check out his Knicks podcast, "The Bank Shot," which you can subscribe to on iTunes here. You can also listen to the latest episode with Jonathan Wasserman, the lead NBA Draft Analyst for Bleacher Report here.