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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Monday / October 23.
  • Yes This NBA Draft is Loaded, and Yes the Knicks Should Tank

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    In April 2015 the Knicks were in position to land the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft, which turned out to be New Jersey native and Kentucky star Karl-Anthony Towns.

    The 7-foot Towns turned out to be the NBA Rookie of the Year last season and is well on his way to becoming one of the most versatile big men in the history of the NBA.

    But the Knicks won two of their final three games — winning at Orlando and at Atlanta — and ultimately wound up with the No. 4 pick, which turned into 7-foot-3 Latvian sensation Kristaps Porzingis, the runner-up to Towns in Rookie of the Year voting.

    “I’m sure people are upset with us tonight,’’ then-Knicks coach Derek Fisher said after the Knicks beat Atlanta on April 13, 2015. “But you never go out here and try not to play your best. It’s a hard thing to do. … Despite our record and whatever probabilities and percentages are with us winning the game, in terms of our future, it has no bearings on these guys’ lives.’’

    Fast forward two years and the Knicks are in a similar position.

    They are in that netherworld between landing a top pick in the lottery and flirting with the No. 8 seed in the East.

    At 25-36, the Knicks stand four games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.

    They currently have the 10th-worst record in the NBA and have a 4.3 percent chance at a top-3 pick and a 1.2 percent chance at the No. 1 overall pick, which could be Washington point guard Markelle Fultz or UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball.

    The Celtics, via the Nets, have a 25 percent chance at the No. 1 pick, followed by the Phoenix Suns (19.9 percent), the L.A. Lakers (15.6 percent) and Orlando Magic (11.9 percent).

    So the Knicks should tank, right?

    “It’s a huge difference,” Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com said Thursday on The 4 Quarters Podcast. “If you look at historically what you can expect to get get in the top three, in the top five, in the top 10, and then once you get outside of the Top 10 the dropoff is just enormous. You’re pretty much drafting a backup 75 percent of the time once you get outside the Top 10.”

    At this moment, DraftExpress.com has the Knicks taking 6-foot-5 international point guard Frank Ntilikina at No. 10. The players ahead of him include Fultz, Ball, Kansas wing Josh Jackson, NC State point guard Dennis Smith Jr., Duke small forward Jayson Tatum, Florida State small forward Jonathan Isaac, Arizona power forward Lauri Markkanen, and Kentucky guards De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk.

    Five of the top 10 projected picks are point guards — a position the Knicks desperately need, especially if Derrick Rose leaves in free agency — and Monk could end up playing some point in the NBA, too.

    The difference between landing, say the No. 7 pick versus the No. 11 pick, could be huge in terms of building around Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony going forward.

    “If you’re asking is the player they get at 7 or at 4 significantly different than the player they get at 11 or 13 or 15, yeah it’s huge,” Givony said. “This draft is not that great that there are 15 starters that are gonna go from 1-15. That’s not how it works.

    “And so everybody’s tripping over themselves tying to overstate how great this draft is, how deep it is. We don’t know who’s gonna be in the draft, first of all.

    “So I’m not necessarily sold on the depth of this draft. Once you get outside the Top 10 or 11, I think it becomes a fairly ordinary draft pretty quickly.”

    So by all means, the Knicks should go ahead and do one of the following:

    *Lose like hell for Markelle

    *Take a fall for Lonzo Ball OR

    *Cease all action for Josh Jackson

    The future of the franchise could depend upon it.

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    Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.