The New York Knicks are probably going to make the playoffs. As in, almost-certainly-in-really-good-shape to make the playoffs. They are 33-27 and in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, with strong underlying metrics and a great 1-2 punch with Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson. ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI) gives New York a 98.1 percent chance to finish in the top 8.
The risky part of finishing in just the top 8, however, is that you might not be perfectly safe. If the Knicks slip down to seventh or eighth they will still need to win their way out of the Play-In Tournament. Lose twice, and they’ll be watching the playoffs from home. They should be one of the East’s better teams down the stretch, but a bad injury or a few poor shooting nights could slip them down just enough.
The Knicks sent a lottery-protected first-round pick to the Portland Trail Blazers in the Josh Hart deal, and if they make the playoffs they will send that pick along. If they miss, however, they retain this year’s pick (which would therefore be a lottery pick) and send four second-round picks instead.
If that unlikely, but still possible outcome occurs (just ask last year’s Cleveland Cavaliers how unlikely it is, or the Golden State Warriors two seasons ago) who are some players the Knicks could draft at the end of the lottery?
Knicks Lottery prospect No. 1: Brice Sensabaugh, Ohio State
One of the breakout stars of this year’s freshman class, Brice Sensabaugh is having a great offensive season for the Ohio State Buckeyes. Sam Vecenie of The Athletic said recently (subscription required) that he has a case as the best shooter in the class, which is saying something given some of the elite shooters also in this class (you’ll see two of them below).
Sensabaugh is 6’6″ with a butter-smooth jumper, one he can get into off the catch or off the dribble. He’s a mess defensively, but the Knicks might have the pieces to insulate and correct that, while they could truly benefit from his shooting. If his passing and separation continue to develop, he could be much more than just a shooter at the next level; at the least, however, a bench gunner with size is his floor.