Most people would agree that, as fans, it is our responsibility to look out for the best interests of our teams. Simply put, the National Basketball Association (NBA) rewards non-playoff teams with better odds in the Lottery if they have more losses, and, because of this, if a team finds itself in a position where making the playoffs is a longshot, tanking becomes the best option for the long-term success of the franchise. The New York Knicks have been in this position for the past few months, but have not been outwardly tanking for a long time.
On March 6, the Knicks beat the Orlando Magic (another team at the bottom of the standings) on the road by seven after trailing for most of the game. This one win might be the difference of a top-three pick and a pick in the 7-9 range. Basically this is the difference between an elite college player like Markelle Fultz or Josh Jackson and a very good but unknown player like Frank Ntilikina.
Winning is the main goal for most athletes, and trying to tell competitors not to give their best effort is something that I am not proposing. Telling Carmelo Anthony to go out against his buddy LeBron James and not give his full effort would only add to his understandable frustration with the organization.
What I think is necessary is giving players like Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis much more rest down the last stretch of the season. Both have had slight injuries nagging them throughout the year, more so for Porzingis, so giving them rest is not unwarranted. I propose that the Knicks, and really any team that should be tanking, should treat the last two months or so of the season like MLB teams treat Spring Training. Use this time to develop your young and inexperienced talent and get prepared for next season by letting them run the show while simultaneously not worrying about the end result of the game. The Knicks should be starting Willy Hernangomez, Mindaugus Kuzminskas and Chasson Randle every game, with the goal of building their confidence and allowing them to log the minutes with no pressure or expectation in mind. While Spring Training is a time to let your stars ease into the long season and get re-acclimated, NBA “tank-time” should be a time to let your stars rest, get young guys who are going to be much more important to the team next year experience and prepare for success next season. While this is going on, execute the game plan night in and night out and trust that in the future you will be happy you lost those five or six extra games and gave yourself a 28.6% higher chance at the next Paul George or Chris Paul.
Knicks fans have become too familiar with draft day disappointment, falling four away from Dwayne Wade and Chris Paul, two from Russell Westbrook or one pick short of Stephen Curry. As far as Lottery-day luck goes, Knicks fans know we usually get the short end of the stick.
I won’t say that we are due for some luck, but I will say the Knicks should be doing themselves as many favors as they can and losing as many games as possible. Honestly, I hate rooting against my team for two full months, but if you are like me, rationalize it like you are taking your medicine: it sucks right now, yeah, but we all know it is the right move.