The grim reality for New York Knicks fans is that their season truly continues on Tuesday, May 14, otherwise known as the day of the NBA Draft Lottery.
How the ping pong balls fall that evening will define the course of this franchise for years to come, and these last 25 games, though sure to be a slog of losses, will play a major role in shaping the Knicks' fate that evening. Here are the varied scenarios Knicks faithful should prepare for between now and when that first envelope is opened.
Currently, New York owns the worst record in the league at 10-47. The teams trailing in the tank-off but within reach are the Phoenix Suns at 11-48, Cleveland Cavaliers at 12-46, and Chicago Bulls at 14-44. The Atlanta Hawks were once a contender in Tank Bowl 2019, but rattled off five wins in six games in late 2018, and have since been regular terrible instead of Knicks terrible.
A new lottery odds format will make its debut this year, giving the Knicks a worse shot at the prized No. 1 pick - and Zion Williamson - compared to years prior. In fact, the three worst teams in the league have the same odds for picks 1-4: 14 percent, 13.4 percent, 12.7 percent and 12 percent respectively.
Things change with picks five and below, where finishing in last place assures your team can't fall beyond the fifth pick, though gives them a 47.9 percent chance at landing it. Meanwhile the second, third, and fourth worst teams can drop to the sixth, seventh and eighth pick, respectively.
To put it simply, racing to the bottom won't help the Knicks secure Zion, but could help them avoid slipping out of the star range in what's being considered a top-heavy draft.
So where do the Knicks land? According to FiveThirtyEight's projections, New York will finish at 16-66, two games below Phoenix and Cleveland, both at 18-64. The Bulls are projected to win 21 games, well ahead of the pack.
Looking at remaining strength of schedule, Cleveland has the toughest home stretch, playing teams with an average winning percentage of .509. Good news for the Knicks is the Cavaliers now have Kevin Love back, and his play is likely to earn them a few more wins than expected. They have one remaining game against the Knicks slated for Feb. 28, and are currently 2-0 in the season series.
The real threat will be Phoenix, now that Chicago has Otto Porter and is playing somewhat competitive basketball, at least for now. The Suns did not pull a big acquisition and don't have a returning star. They do have a slightly softer schedule than the Knicks at .459 to .483, but the deciding factor will likely be their home game against New York in early March.
Phoenix won on the road at Madison Square Garden earlier this season in a big comeback effort. Their ratings on both ends of the court are a touch worse than the Knicks', and despite their addition of Kelly Oubre Jr., they have lost 15 consecutive games, moving in stride to New York's 18 in a row.
It will be a fight to the finish for these two teams. Assuming a two-way race, the worst the Knicks can do is take on a 20 percent chance at falling to the sixth pick. Zion is the optimal outcome, but fans should be satisfied with the 26.1 percent chance at either Ja Morant or R.J. Barrett. Cam Reddish appears to be the consensus fourth pick, but beyond him is a lot of noise at this point.
If the Knicks nab a better record than the Suns, there's a 47.8 percent of having to pick fifth or sixth. What comes with that depends on the big board you find - Romeo Langford, De'Andre Hunter, Jarrett Culver, Nassir Little and others are completely interchangeable among the experts.
If the Knicks want to avoid potentially being left disappointed after one of their worst seasons in history, they'll need to keep the losing going, and hope the odds are in their favor.