A victory in Chicago Saturday would be a boost to the Knicks awful road record. And it also would be a boon to their draft-night hopes getting them closer to the coveted 31st pick in the draft.
In the unsung part of the Carmelo Anthony trade with Oklahoma City that netted Enes Kanter and ex-Bull Doug McDermott, the Knicks also received a 2018 second-round pick owned by the Bulls.
Yes, that Bulls team that has dedicated this season to tanking.
The Knicks havent done as good a job at their own tank off to a 12-12 start and possibly ready to stay in a playoff race.
For the franchises long-term health, gaining a lottery pick and the 31st pick in the draft wouldnt be the worst thing despite the players talk of an urgent desire to make the playoffs.
The 31st pick is considered gold because it usually draws the same caliber talent as a pick in the 20s, but without the first-round long-term salary. Second-round picks make the league minimum.
Holding the 31st pick allows you versatility on the pick, Ryan Blake, a draft consultant for the NBA, told The Post. Not only does this pick come with a smaller salary but you also can find a pleasant surprise choice of someone coveted in the first round that may have slipped.
This also gives you the ability to lock down an international prospect, draft a player that could be used as a two-way, G-League contract. There also will be offers for trades that other teams may covet that pick.
After dumping Jimmy Butler in a Minnesota trade, letting Rajon Rondo flee and buying out Dwyane Wade, Chicago is on the right tanking track. They comfortably own the NBAs worst record at 3-20, are riding a 10-game losing streak and have the worst offensive rating in the league.
That means nothing when the Knicks come to town, minus the injured Tim Hardaway Jr. The Knicks are 1-7 away from the Garden with the lone road win coming in Cleveland on Oct. 29 when the Cavaliers had yet to acknowledge the start of the season. Jeff Hornaceks crew has lost their last five road contests, but Hornacek rationalized the lousy ledger.
Early in season we played some better teams, Hornacek said, referring to Oklahoma City and Boston. We had a loss to Atlanta but KP (Kristaps Porzingis) didnt play. Last couple of games, we were missing guys. Well have plenty of opportunities. We got a lot of road games coming up in the next month or two. Well try to get that right.
Indeed, the road beckons. The Knicks 12-12 record could be viewed as inflated because 16 of their 24 games have been staged at the Garden.
From Dec. 27 through Feb. 2, the Knicks will play 16 of 20 games on the road. Whether Hardaway Jr. will be back for many of them is unclear.
The Knicks issued no timetable for Hardaway Jr.s return from a stress injury in his lower left leg. Perhaps a firmer timetable will be established after he is reevaluated in two weeks.
Medical experts say Hardaway Jr. has either a stress reaction in his tibia or fibula or a stress fracture. When Hornacek was asked if it was a stress fracture, he declined to answer.
More curiously, when Porzingis was asked if he ever had a stress injury like Hardaways, he volunteered he sustained a stress fracture his first season in Spain. Medical experts say a stress fracture could take up to two months to heal.
The new post-Hardaway alignment looked solid against the Grizzlies in a Wednesday night win, but they are one of the NBAs dregs.
Lance Thomas is the new starting small forward and Courtney Lee the new alpha dog. They are co-captains, voted in prior to the season opener. Hornacek was asked who his captains were last month, but kept it under wraps. (Kanter revealed it in the locker room Wednesday).
In continuing his career year, Lee erupted for 24 points against the Grizzlies and sped up the pace the Knicks need for their offense with Hardaway Jr. sidelined.
Averaging a career high 13.1 points, Lee will probably rack up bigger numbers during Hardaways absence as he continues a metamorphosis from a tepid first season. Lee is shooting a superb 49.8 percent overall and 46.5 on 3-pointers.
Thats what we need without Tim, Hornacek said. We need him to get 15, 16 shots up without Tim. If youre open, got to shoot them. Courtney has done a much better job this year. Last year he was passing up a lot of those. This year we just said shoot it. Hes doing it and were putting the ball in his hands more in pick and rolls.