To trade or not to trade? Although the Knicks have often appeared trapped in an eternal Shakespearean drama over the past two decades, they have more so resembled a long-running sitcom. The Knicks haven’t made the playoffs since the 2012-13 season, and simple math dictates they will miss the postseason for the fifth consecutive campaign.
Before facing the Boston Celtics last night (Wednesday) on the road, they were 23-28, having won two straight games against the Phoenix Suns and Brooklyn Nets, respectively. To reach .500 by the end of the regular season, a mark they will likely have to attain to secure the eighth seed and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the Knicks would have to go 18-13 in their remaining 31 games, including last night’s.
They were 10th in the East behind the eighth place Philadelphia 76ers and ninth seed Detroit Pistons when play ended Tuesday. The 76ers, 24-23 when they met up with the Nets in Brooklyn last night, would need to achieve a record of 17-17 over 35 games to secure a .500 record and the last playoff slot. Clearly, the numbers are unfavorable for the Knicks.
Therefore, how they will move forward from now until the conclusion of the regular season should be based on how they can improve the team for the coming years. Forwards Kyle O’ Quinn and Michael Beasley, center Willy Hernangomez and guard Courtney Lee are players several NBA teams have targeted to bolster their rosters for a playoff push.
Veteran Joakim Noah, who has been all but anchored to the Knicks’ bench, would ecstatically welcome being dealt to a contender, but none will take on his onerous contract, which has three years and $56 million owed to him. His paltry averages of 1.7 points and two rebounds in 5.7 minutes per game this season are the lowest of his career.
He has been unable to crack the center rotation as starter Enes Kanter and backup O’Quinn have garnered most of the time. Hernangomez is next on the depth chart. Noah, a 32-year-old native of New York, left the team last week, presumably over his displeasure with his lack of opportunities.
“When you look at our team and the stage that we’re at, it’s tough on everybody to have four guys and what they’ve done,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said Monday. “Again, it’s kind of like our point guards. Everybody lends something different. So it is what it is. They’re all competitors, they all want to play and sometimes it just doesn’t happen.”
Hornacek may alleviate the dilemma of distributing minutes to his points guards by playing rookie Frank Ntilikina and Trey Burke together. “When the two of them were in there, Trey kind of handled it and did his thing. And Frank did a nice job of playing off the ball,” said Hornacek after the Knicks defeated the Nets 111-95 at the Garden Tuesday. “When we see that, it gives us an opportunity to use Ntilikina at the two spot.”
Knicks president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry have one more week to decide the makeup of the roster for the next two-plus months. All decisions should be based on building for the seasons ahead and not chasing an elusive playoff spot this season.