The Knicks will get the 8th seed, if they want it. The Atlanta Hawks have made it abundantly clear that the 8th seed is there for the Knicks to take since they, the Hawks, place no value on it (probably a smart move for a team with a first round draft pick this year). The Knicks however, do not have a first rounder this season and the roster clearly was assembled to win now.
Currently the Knicks are one game back in the loss column (the only column that matters (The idea that the Knicks and Hawks are “tied” for the 8th seed is a bogus one). With six left to play and the Hawks willingly reeling, a record of 4-2 should seal the deal and even 3-3 may get the job done for the Bockers.
In the NBA there are three types of 8th seeds. The first is a team like the Bobcats (they’re actually the 7th seed) who have been really bad for a long time and are trying to build something. While no one wants to get swept in the playoffs, just qualifying for the second season for these guys is enough. They can use the experience of being there and build on it for the next year and try to continue to improving.
The second only exists in the Western Conference. It’s an eight seed that is very dangerous, could very well make a playoff run, but is stuck in the worst playoff spot because the conference is so damn good it’s ridiculous. The second place finisher of the Suns/Mavericks/Grizzlies race for the playoffs will be that team this season, especially if it’s the Grizzlies, who won eight playoff games last season and are only down there because of injuries.
The third type of 8th seed, the one that mostly exists in the Eastern Conference, is the perennial underachieving “win now” team that now wants to make the playoffs because once they get in “no one will want to play us.” The problem with this is this team is usually bad and they will just embarrass themselves when they get swept out of round one.
As you can probably guess, the Knicks are that third type of 8th seed. They aren’t a good team despite having an older roster set to win now, they believe that they can make noise in the playoffs when no one else does, and they’ll likely get swept out of round one.
The one big difference between the Knicks and those other types of teams is the Knicks have no first round draft pick this season. Unlike the Hawks, the Knicks just miss the playoffs and that’s it if they miss. So to look a little less ridiculous, they need to make the playoffs to ensure their lottery pick isn’t being used by either Orlando or Denver to snag a potential rotation player for years to come.
The Knicks remaining schedule isn’t easy; they host Washington, @MIA, @TOR, vs CHI, @BKN, vs TOR to end it and the Hawks do have Detroit, Boston, Cleveland, and Milwaukee all left on their schedule. Thing is though, Atlanta probably just sees that as a challenge to lose more games than to elevate their playoff chances. With eight games left instead of the Knicks six, the Hawks just have more games to lose and add those ping pong balls.
Will an extra four, maybe five games in the season (especially if a couple are blowout losses) enhance the Knicks chances of keeping Carmelo Anthony? That’s unclear but what isn’t is that Anthony is frustrated with how much worse the Knicks are than last year.
So yes, the Knicks should make the playoffs this year after it looking like a near impossibility just a few weeks ago. The real question is though, what does that mean and will it even matter? Despite what the Knicks players will tell you the answer may not be so obvious.