Are the Knicks a Threat to Make the Playoffs in an Improved Eastern Conference? How Close are They to Becoming Contenders?

New York Knicks V Atlanta Hawks

NEW YORK,NY – OCTOBER 29: Kristaps Porzingis #6 of the New York Knicks goes up for the dunk against the Atlanta Hawks at Madison Square Garden on October 29, 2015

1/30/2016- Through 49 games the Knicks stand at 23-26, six more wins than they had throughout all of last season as they went a franchise worst 17-65. This was one game ahead of the Minnesota Timberwolves for the best chance at acquiring the number one overall selection in the draft lottery. The Knicks held the second worst overall record in the NBA which means they had the highest odds at obtaining the second overall pick before the lottery. They got unlucky once again in the lottery as the Lakers obtained the second overall pick. New York was slated to pick fourth as they swapped positions with the Lakers as a result of the lottery. Phil Jackson once again saved the unluckiest franchise in the NBA as he went against the wishes of even the most prudent fans and selected the 7’3’’ white unicorn, Kristaps Porzingis. If the Knicks held the second selection instead of the fourth selection in a redraft they would still pick Porzingis due to what he already provides and his tantalizing potential. The Knicks ended up getting a steal at the number four spot in Kristaps Porzingis.

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The Knicks current record is good for ninth place in the Eastern conference playoff picture. Although the ninth seed doesn’t make the playoffs, they currently stand two and a half games behind the Indiana Pacers for the eighth and final playoff spot. Although it may seem as if the Knicks are on the outside looking in they stand just five games behind the Chicago Bulls for the third overall seed in the East. There are six teams that have records within two and a half games of each other in the Eastern conference playoff picture: the Bulls, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Detroit Pistons, and Indiana Pacers. The Knicks will have plenty of opportunities to advance in the Eastern conference playoff picture as they have ten matchups remaining with the aforementioned teams. There is little doubt that the Knicks are talented enough to compete for a playoff spot. If the Knicks were in the Western conference they would currently occupy the eighth seed, as they have one more win than the 22-26 Portland Trail Blazers. If the Knicks can get on a hot streak there is little doubt that they will be in the hunt for the eighth and final playoff seed.

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Andrea Bargnani during his short Knicks tenure

So you must be thinking: can the Knicks really overtake one of the teams currently ahead of them in the Eastern conference standings? I think that they actually can. They hold a 6-6 record against the teams currently seeded 3-8 in the East and have played significantly well against the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics in particular. They hold a combined 3-0 record against Atlanta and Boston in their past three meetings.[1] There is no incentive to tank this season because James Dolan dealt the upcoming first round pick to the Toronto Raptors for Andrea Bargnani. ANDREA BARGNANI PEOPLE! Andrea Bargnani is why the Knicks must avoid another lost season and sneak into the playoffs. Their schedule for the rest of the season is somewhat favorable. Let’s take a look at all of their remaining games.

1/31/2016 vs. the Golden State Warriors: I am not going to even try to argue in favor of the Knicks against a team on pace to overtake the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls for the greatest single season record in NBA history. They finished 72-10. Verdict: loss

2/2/2016 vs. the Boston Celtics: The Celtics are one of the hottest teams in the league and winners of five straight. At home this will be a close game but the Celtics are the hotter team and will prevail. Verdict: loss

2/4/2016 @ the Detroit Pistons: In their first meeting of the season the Knicks beat the Pistons 108-96 in the Garden. Carmelo dropped 24 points and 6 assists for the Knicks. Home court advantage will loom large for Detroit in a game played in a playoff type atmosphere. Verdict: loss

2/5/2016 vs. the Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizzlies ended up beating the Knicks in the first meeting due to a strong showing in the fourth quarter. In the Garden, the result will be different. Verdict: win

2/7/2016 vs. the Denver Nuggets: The Nuggets are an extremely young team in rebuilding mode. The Knicks will dismantle Carmelo’s old team at home. Verdict: win

2/9/2016 vs. the Washington Wizards: The Wizards are one of the biggest disappointments in the NBA this season after beating the fourth seeded Raptors in the first round of the Eastern conference playoffs last season. The Knicks will take care of business at home. Verdict: win

2/19/2016 @ the Brooklyn Nets: The Nets are one of the worst teams in the NBA. If the Knicks have any hope of making the playoffs they will have to defeat the Nets in Brooklyn. Verdict: win

2/20/2016 @ the Minnesota Timberwolves: The Timberwolves are in position for another lottery selection in the upcoming draft. They are stockpiling young talent and have a bright future ahead. The Knicks will handle the Wolves on the road. Verdict: win

2/22/2016 vs. the Toronto Raptors: The Raptors are the hottest team in the NBA and are winners of ten straight games. The New York crowd will be going wild and hoping for a victory but the Raptors will use a strong showing from their all stars Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan to squeak out a victory. Verdict: loss

2/24/2016 @ the Indiana Pacers: The Knicks play the Pacers for the first time this year. This game is a complete toss up but the Paul George vs. Carmelo Anthony matchup will be what people want to see. Carmelo’s squad wins in a close one. Verdict: win

2/26/2016 vs. the Orlando Magic: This is Tobias Harris’s homecoming but his team will be dismantled by a much more talented Knicks team. Verdict: win

2/28/2016 vs. the Miami Heat: The season series sits at 1-2. Miami has cooled off as of late and have even slipped behind the Boston Celtics in the playoff picture. The Knicks will even up the season series at home. Verdict: win

3/1/2016 vs. the Portland Trail Blazers: the Trail Blazers are one of the biggest surprises of this season. They lost four of their starting five from last season but are currently the eighth seed in the West. The Knicks will figure out a way to contain Damian Lillard at home. Verdict: win

3/4/2016 @ the Boston Celtics: The season series is currently 1-2 in favor of the Celtics. Home court advantage will prove to be huge for Boston. Verdict: loss

3/5/2016 vs. the Detroit Pistons: At home the Knicks will defeat the Pistons in their third matchup of the season. The Garden crowd will cause Andre Drummond to miss free throws in crunch time. Verdict: win

3/8/2016 @ the Denver Nuggets: Although the trip to Denver will be tough on the Knicks players as well as the altitude change, the Knicks will squeeze out a surprisingly close game on the first game of their West coast road trip. Verdict: win

3/9/2016 @ the Phoenix Suns: The Suns are one of the worst teams in the league this season after having a decent 2014-15. The acquisition of Tyson Chandler has done little for the Suns in terms of wins. I’m so glad he’s not the Knicks problem anymore. Verdict: win

3/11/2016 @ the Los Angeles Clippers: The Clippers crushed the Knicks the last time they met. I expect a similar outcome unfortunately. The Clippers are too much to handle for this Knicks team. Verdict: loss

3/13/2016 @ the Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers and Knicks were in similar positions last season as two of the worst teams in the league. The Knicks have improved tremendously while the Lakers have remained in the same spot. Verdict: win

3/16/2016 @ the Golden State Warriors: The Warriors will prevail once again as they inch closer and closer to the 95-96 Bulls record of 72 wins. Verdict: loss

3/19/2016 @ the Washington Wizards: The Wizards have gotten so much worse this season even though the only starter they lost from last season is Paul Pierce. Pierce’s clutch shooting has been sorely missed in the nations capital. Verdict: win

3/20/2016 vs. the Sacramento Kings: the Kings are one of the NBA’s surprisingly most improved teams. The addition of Rajon Rondo has made them a threat to enter the West playoff picture as the eighth seed. The Garden crowd will be too much to handle for George Karl’s squad down the stretch. Verdict: win

3/23/2016 @ the Chicago Bulls: In the first game of a home and home series the Bulls will defend their home court and wind up victorious. Verdict: loss

3/24/2016 vs. the Chicago Bulls: In the second game of the home and home the Knicks will fix the mistakes they made the previous night in Chicago and end up with the W in the Garden against a strong Bulls squad. Verdict: win

3/26/2016 vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers: Will this be the first time that the Knicks can hold onto the lead for an entire game against Lebron and the Cavs? I don’t think they will be able to against the best team in the East. Verdict: loss

3/28/2016 @ the New Orleans Pelicans: The Pelicans are one of the biggest disappointments this season after a strong showing in the first round of the playoffs against the Warriors last season. The Knicks will get a victory in the big easy. Verdict: win

3/30/2016 @ the Dallas Mavericks: The Mavs defeated the Knicks in their first head to head meeting. The matchup to watch will be Dirk vs. Porzingis, two of the greatest NBA imports from Europe. I don’t see the Knicks taking one from the Mavs at home. Verdict: loss

4/1/2016 vs. the Brooklyn Nets: Once again if the Knicks intend on making the playoffs this season they will have to defeat Andrea Bargnani and the Nets. Verdict: win

4/3/2016 vs. the Indiana Pacers: In the second matchup of the season with the Pacers, the Knicks will find a way to win at home against a team currently seeded higher than them in the Eastern conference playoffs. The Knicks will pull one out in the final seconds of a thriller. Verdict: win

4/6/2016 vs. the Charlotte Hornets: In Jeremy Lin’s homecoming, the Knicks will show Lin what they have become despite his absence. This victory will prove that Linsanity was in fact a fluke. Verdict: win

4/8/2016 @ the Philadelphia 76ers: The 76ers are the worst team in the NBA and it was disappointing that they took the Knicks to double OT the last time they met. The Knicks will send the Sixers a message on their home floor. Verdict: win

4/10/2016 vs. the Toronto Raptors: At home the Knicks will prevail against a solid Raptors team. The Knicks will have their hopes of reaching the playoffs riding on this game, and they will find a way to limit Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan in a close victory. Verdict: win

4/12/2016 @ the Indiana Pacers: In the final game of the regular season the Knicks will travel to Indianapolis with the eighth seed on the line. The Pacers will use a strong showing from Paul George and Myles Turner to pull out a victory against the Bockers. Verdict: loss

If the remaining games pan out the way I am predicting them to, the Knicks will finish the season on a 22-11 run. Their final record would be 45-37, definitely a respectable record a year after finishing just 17-65. If this were last season, they would qualify as the sixth seed in the Eastern conference, just one game behind the fifth seed Washington Wizards who finished at 46-36. If the Knicks continue their upward trend and end up making the playoffs, this season will be considered an enormous success. The Knicks future certainly looks bright and I can’t wait to see what Phil Jackson can do this offseason before his third season as president. I look forward to seeing where the Knicks will finish this season. Hopefully we will get to watch a playoff game in the garden for the first time since Jason Kidd retired. Let’s go Knicks.

Continue reading New York Sports Please for all of the latest news and speculation on the New York Giants, Knicks, and Yankees.

[1] http://www.nba.com/knicks/schedule

Photo Credits:

  1. http://upl.stack.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/12103755/The-Reason-Why-Kristaps-Porzingis-Has-Been-a-Put-Back-Dunk-Monster-STACK.jpg
  2. https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&es_th=1&ie=UTF-8#q=eastern+conference+standings
  3. http://static.giantbomb.com/uploads/original/14/141373/2681151-1178318134-hi-re.jpg
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