As the Knicks play out the string in the wake of the season-ending ACL injury to Kristaps Porzingis, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
That light emanates from the NBA Draft set for June 21 at Barclays Center.
Three years ago, the Knicks landed Porzingis with the No. 4 pick, and Knicks fans then mercilessly booed the Latvian Unicorn before he ended up showing them exactly what he was capable of.
Now the Knicks and their fans should be dreaming of another top-five pick who could turn out to be Arizona's Deandre Ayton, Duke's Marvin Bagley III, Oklahoma's Trae Young, Texas' Mohamed Bamba or maybe even European star Luka Dončić. This draft figures to be dominated by big men and scoring wings near the top, with Missouri's Michael Porter, Villanova's Mikal Bridges, Kentucky's Kevin Knox and Michigan State's Miles Bridges also likely to be lottery picks.
"Well, they should be [dreaming of a top-five pick] because this is a tragic injury for the Zinger; you hope he's going to recover 100 percent," ESPN's Fran Fraschilla said. "But right now the key way the Knicks can make any progress for the long term is to try to get as high a draft pick as possible in a year where there's potentially six or seven future All-Stars in this draft."
At 23-33 following Thursday's loss in Toronto, the Knicks now own the ninth-worst record in the NBA, and every loss brings them closer to the chances of landing a top-three or top-five pick. They currently have a 6.1 percent chance of landing a top-3 pick, per Tankathon.com.
"There's no other way to go forward, quite frankly, other than to try to think for the future over the last part of this NBA season because they're not a factor now and they're certainly not going to be a factor without the big guy," Fraschilla said.
Knicks GM Scott Perry said this week the team will emphasize playing its younger core that includes Frank Ntilikina as well as guys like Trey Burke, Isaiah Hicks and Luke Kornet, all of whom spent time on the G League roster this year. The Knicks also acquired 21-year-old point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, the No. 7 pick in Porzingis' draft, in a three-way deal that sent Doug McDermott to Dallas.
The Knicks continued to stockpile second-round draft picks in the Mudiay and Willy Hernangomez trades, and Fraschilla believes those can be valuable moving forward. They have two second-rounders in 2018, along with their first-round pick.
"They are valuable but they're definitely hit or miss," Fraschilla said of second-round picks. "They're valuable because you get another shot at the draft. All you have to do is look at guys like Draymond Green, Nikola Jokic, Chandler Parsons, Pat Beverly, Khris Middleton, who's making $15 million a year and and most basketball fans don't even know who he is." Lance Stephenson, whom the Knicks infamously skipped over, was also a second-rounder.
"What I love about the NBA is how teams fill their rosters," Fraschilla said. "It's not just the lottery guy, it's not just the guy you get in the first 15-20 picks. But you look around the league at NBA teams that are doing well and there's a plethora of guys that were either late-first-round picks, second-round picks, undrafted and guys that got better throughout their NBA careers, and that's where second-round guys come in really handy.
"If you look at every roster in the league, you're going to see guys that were unheralded that are becoming really good NBA players. Statistically speaking, they're more hit and miss than the guys you take in the lottery. But you could field a team of second-round picks right now and likely compete for an NBA title."