Ask yourselves, Knick fans, how good would this team be?
- Andrew Wiggins
- Jabari Parker
- Karl-Anthony Towns
- D’Angelo Russell
- Ben Simmons
- Brandon Ingram
- Markelle Fultz
- Lonzo Ball
- Deandre Ayton
- Marvin Bagley
I submit that they’d be very good but not great. We don’t have to use too much imagination to figure it out, because some current NBA teams have more than 1 of those players. The Wolves, for example, have Towns and Wiggins. With Towns and Wiggins, the Wolves are out of the playoffs. Let’s stipulate that Simmons and Russell would be an upgrade over Rose and Teague, and that having Deandre Ayton coming off the bench would be a major talent upgrade. How much of an upgrade? I’d say enough to bump them from being out of the playoffs, to a middle-tier playoff team, behind Golden State, Houston, Denver, and OKC.
Uh, Kraver, why are you talking to Knicks fans about a random group of 10 players who will never be on an NBA team together, let alone the Knicks?
I’m glad you asked.
That group of 10 players is not random at all. It represents the top 2 picks in each of the previous 5 drafts. In other words, if a team somehow “succeeded” at tanking so magnificently – tanking better than any team has ever done anything in the history of teams doing a variety of things – that it found a way to get the top 2 picks in 5 straight drafts, this is the group of players it would have wound up with.
So, let’s keep going.
How good is that group of ten? (I’m putting aside issues of “fit” and judging by the talent.)
The Lakers also have two of those players: Ball and Ingram. They’re the 8 seed, at the moment. Nobody on the list above approaches LeBron James, and it’s not clear that anyone is much better than Kyle Kuzma. But let’s say the collective upgrade in talent would bump the Lakers into the first tier out West, still behind Golden State and possibly others.
Lastly, the Sixers have two of those players: Simmons and Fultz. They’re currently a 4 seed. Nobody else on the list above is better than Embiid or Jimmy Butler. The cumulative collection of 8 players probably represents a talent upgrade over the best 8 players on the Sixers’ current roster along with Simmons and Fultz, but it’s not a major upgrade. They’d still be around the same team.
Got that? If some team had managed to tank at an impossibly “successful” level, and somehow figured out a way to get the top 2 picks in each of the last 5 drafts, it wouldn’t have a championship team.
Thus, I respectfully submit that the various Knicks fans whom I hear rooting against their beloved ‘Bockers are misplacing their energy. Tanking is no guarantee of anything – at least not anything good. If you try to lose, the only guarantee is that you’ll lose. If you want to win, then I respectfully submit it’s worth trying to win.
Granted, I don’t have a secret formula that can make the Knicks good. Let’s be realistic. It’s a 30-team league, so if your team wins one championship every 15 years, it’s ahead of the curve. And lots of the other teams are run by competent folks, not to mention that they’re starting with more talent on the roster than the Knicks have. I’m just a dude with a blog that only 3 people read, and I don’t claim to have the secret formula for success for the Knicks.
Plus, I recognize that turning this ship around won’t be easy. The Knicks are 10-33 as of this writing. I’m not suggesting they should trade young players and draft picks for veterans, in the hope of running off a 23-game winning streak just to get back to .500.
What I’m suggesting is that losing is not a great path to greatness. The Knicks are 102-187 since the start of the 2015-16 season. I respectfully submit to all my “pro-tanking” friends that the problem with the Knicks isn’t that they’ve been winning too many games recently. If you think they haven’t been bad enough for long enough yet, then we’ll agree to disagree. For the rest of this season, I don’t suggest that they move mountains to pick up a few extra wins. But, longer term, if you still find yourself rooting for losses at this time next year, I think you’re pursuing the wrong strategy. While I don’t claim to know the secret formula for success, what I do claim to know is that championship teams win much more than they lose. The more you lose, the further away you are. If your team is trying to lose, it’s foreclosing some of the only options for improvement. If you’re bad, you’re unlikely to land a star free agent, because the best generally look for good teams to join. And, if you’re bad, you’re largely out of the trade market for an impactful player, because impactful players hardly ever get traded for draft picks. So, if you’re bad, your only reasonable hope to get better is to do it through the draft. And that rarely works. (See the list of ten players, above.)
In sum… Wanna win? Then start winning.