Should New York Knicks Take Their Sites off Making the Playoffs?

The New York Knicks have opened the 2014-15 season in terrible fashion, and their chances of making the playoffs will continue to fade if things don’t turn around quickly.

Given that this is the first year of a rebuilding project, however, it’s possible the Knicks’ best course of action would be to take their sites off the playoffs and focus on doing everything they can to make sure they improve beyond this season.

Winning now is a good way to set a high standard for the Phil Jackson regime, but it wasn’t the Knicks’ only goal and now that it appears to be fading away, it may make sense for the franchise to turn its eyes toward the future.

This doesn’t necessarily mean tanking—there’s no scenario in which the Knicks should be intentionally losing. What it does mean, however, is that decisions should prioritize the future over the present.

Now that they’re (almost) fully healthy, Derek Fisher should feel free to continue experimenting with lineups until he finds the best unit. Having Jose Calderon back could make a big difference to who fits best in the starting five. Carmelo Anthony and Iman Shumpert should be locks, with the final two spots depending on who has the best chemistry with those players—something we won’t know without adequate sample size.

On that note, it’s also important for rotations to feature younger players (along with anyone else likely to be here long term). Winning a few extra games based on the play of guys who aren’t going to be around in 2015-16 isn’t particularly useful, unless those few games are the difference between being a contender and not. With the Knicks, it’s the difference between bad and mediocre.

Given the team’s record, there’s no reason the likes of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Cleanthony Early (when he was healthy), should be spending so much time on the bench. They need the experience a throwaway season like this can provide more than anyone and are two of the only players New York has tied down long term.

This kind of long-term thinking should also be present in the front office, if it isn’t already. On December 15, trade restrictions are lifted (allowing for 2014 draft picks and free agents to be traded), and we should expect the Knicks to be active.

A blockbuster move probably isn’t going to happen. The Knicks simply don’t have the ammo, and there’s only so much expiring contracts can get you without anything to sweeten the deal.

What we can expect to see the Knicks do, however, is look to unload salary for 2015, to maximize their available cap space in the offseason for potential additions and re-signing Iman Shumpert, which is sure to be expensive at this rate.

Considering the team’s depth at shooting guard, it’s very likely we’ll see J.R. Smith on the trading block. According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, that’s already been explored as an option. The Knicks may also be interested in trading Shane Larkin, who they may very well lose for nothing after declining his team option. Even veterans like Pablo Prigioni and Jason Smith, who may be more useful to contending teams in need of help off the bench, should be made available.

While everyone would like to see an immediate turnaround, it’s unlikely the Knicks are going to improve significantly before the end of the season, and that could actually have its benefits. The Knicks have their own first-round pick this year, and as it stands that could end up being in the lottery.

Adding a major free agent would be great, but nothing could help the Knicks’ rebuilding process more than drafting an elite prospect. Not only will it be cheap, it also gives the franchise a chance to mould a player into the system, rather than picking up a veteran who’s played elsewhere for the majority of his NBA career.

Even focusing on the future, we should expect to observe an improvement from the Knicks before the end of the season. They are not a good team, but they certainly shouldn’t be quite this bad either with players like Melo, Shump, Calderon and Amar’e Stoudemire leading the way.

As Fisher gets more experienced as a coach and the players get more used to each other and the system, it’s only natural that the record will improve, even if the focus is on the future. In fact, if that doesn’t happen, we may have to start asking questions about whether Fisher and Melo really should be the foundations of this team.

On a nightly basis, the Knicks’ focus on the court should be on beating their opponent. That’s the only way a franchise can truly claim to have a winning mentality.

At this point, however, it would be foolish to place much importance on making the playoffs given this season’s context within the rebuilding project, and that’s an attitude that can be adopted on the sidelines and in the front office. There should be an understanding that the final record isn’t the be all and end all, especially when it comes to experimenting with rotations and exploring trade options.

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Could NCAA committee follow Playoff’s lead?

Bracket selection group discusses publicizing early look at tournament seeds.



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Who Will the New Orleans Pelicans Knock out of the Playoffs?

If the playoffs started today—just one tenth of the way through the regular season—the New Orleans Pelicans would own the sixth seed in the Western Conference, just ahead of the reigning champion San Antonio Spurs, who Anthony Davis and Co. beat 100-99 a week ago.

It’s far too soon to make this team’s postseason return official, but there are compelling reasons to believe its 5-3 start is a sign of things to come. Davis has gotten off to an MVP-caliber start. Tyreke Evans has returned to his Rookie of the Year form. Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon are healthy, and Omer Asik is proving a savvy offseason acquisition.

What’s not to like?

The Pels‘ first three losses have come against the Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies and Cleveland Cavaliers—all formidable in their own rights. And coming off Friday’s franchise-record 139-point eruption against the rebuilding Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans is proving it can win the games it’s supposed to win. 

“We’re jelling right now and I think you can tell, obviously,” forward Ryan Anderson told reporters after the contest. “We’re learning, but tonight was kind of a game that really solidified the fact that we understand how to play with each other…When we move the ball, it looks really good and it’s just great basketball.”

Assuming the Pelicans keep a good thing going, the question is where they’ll land in the absolutely stacked West—especially with other up-and-coming clubs like the Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings vying for playoff positions of their own. New Orleans will improve upon last season’s 34-48 record, but by how much?

And if it’s good enough for a playoff berth, which postseason incumbent gets squeezed out?

At the moment, that team would be the 3-7 Oklahoma City Thunder. OKC is playing without reigning MVP Kevin Durant and superstar sidekick Russell Westbrook, both scheduled to be out of service with injuries through the end of November and potentially longer.

Four of the Thunder’s remaining seven games this month are against clubs that didn’t make last season’s playoffs, but after recent losses to the Milwaukee Bucks and Detroit Pistons, there’s really no guarantee Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson can keep this team afloat in the near-term.

If Durant and Westbrook play most of December, Oklahoma City’s postseason chances will look considerably better. Barring any setbacks, this team could very well win 70 percent of its games at full strength and storm into the playoffs with fairly respectable seeding.

The Thunder only lost 23 games a season ago, a record that was good enough to claim the No. 2 seed. So the likelihood they’ll emerge from November with at least 10 losses is a sobering reminder of how well head coach Scott Brooks’ squad will have to play for the remainder of the season.

The Phoenix Suns missed last season’s playoffs despite losing only 34 games. Oklahoma City won’t have much margin for error when healthy.

There’s also a risk things don’t go entirely according to plan in December.

Westbrook fractured his shooting hand, which potentially could affect his shooting during the early stages of his return. And there’s no firm timeframe for Durant’s return. He’s indicated that—whatever happens—he’s in no hurry.

“Nah, I’m not going to rush it at all,” Durant told reporters in October. “That’s one thing I’m not going to do. I’m sure I’ll feeI better in two or three weeks, but I definitely don’t want to rush it. So I’m taking my time with it.

“Blessed that it happened early in the season so I can get past it and hopefully by December I’ll be ready to play.” 

Hopefully. But not definitely.

It required 49 wins to make the playoffs out West last season. The season before that, the magic number was 45. Given the overall improvement of teams out West, odds are this season’s cutoff will be closer to 49 again.

That means Oklahoma City can’t afford for injuries to rob 10 victories from the 59-win pace it set a season ago.

In an absolute worst-case scenario, the Thunder may find itself in a hole that’s just too deep. In that event, the final standings may not look radically different from today’s—ensuring New Orleans a spot among the West’s eight best teams.

If Oklahoma City does rally and pull its season together, something else will have to give.

Could another one of last season’s playoff qualifiers come up short in pursuit of those 49-or-so wins?

It’s hard to imagine the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers finishing with the seventh and eighth seeds they currently hold, but it’s entirely conceivable that one or both teams takes a step back. But it’s unlikely either misses the playoffs.

The Golden State Warriors have jumped out to an impressive 6-2 start under new head coach Steve Kerr and look poised to compete for a top seed—probably no worse than No. 4.

The Dallas Mavericks improved their roster fairly dramatically this summer, and the Portland Trail Blazers will almost certainly benefit from in-house improvement and the quiet addition of reserve center Chris Kaman. 

While the Houston Rockets ostensibly took a hit from the losses of Asik, Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons, they currently look as good as anyone in the league. The 8-1 record is encouraging, but it’s the league-leading plus-10.0 point differential that should really draw attention. Houston has been dominant thus far, and there’s virtually no chance it falls out of the playoff hunt.

The other team sitting atop the West with an 8-1 record is a different story, though.

The Memphis Grizzlies have looked good so far, but they probably won’t keep it up. Over the course of the last four seasons, their best position was the No. 4 seed they locked up in 2012. They held the No. 7 seed a season ago, and it’s hard to imagine remarkable improvement. Vince Carter was a nice addition, but not an especially momentous one.

Memphis may even be New Orleans’ best hope when it comes to trading places with one of last season’s postseason participants—especially if the Thunder reach full strength in short order.

The Grizzlies have virtually patented the role of dark-horse contender, but they were two losses away from missing the playoffs in 2013-14. Unless their hot start is a harbinger of things to come, this is a race the Pelicans could win.

In theory, anyway.

Head coach Monty Williams’ team will have to do its part. That will require consistency and likely some upsets. And even then, the Pelicans aren’t the only hungry team out West. The Suns and Kings are looking to make playoff inroads of their own, perhaps at New Orleans’ expense. 

May is still a long way away, and there’s still a lot of basketball to be played. But this could really happen for the Pelicans. Last season’s 34 wins may seem a far cry from the 49 it may take to get the job done, but this is a different team in some important ways.

“If we’re healthy, we’re for sure a playoff team,” shooting guard Eric Gordon told Basketball Insiders’ Alex Kennedy in August. “It’s all about us getting together and playing because the West is tough. We know that and realize that. It’s all about having a full season together…That’s what we got to see this year.

“We’ll have a fully-loaded team and it’s about all of us being healthy. It’s crazy to see how many guys were injured this past year. We never got a chance to play a full season together.”

It’s the tone you’d expect from a guy who missed 18 games last season. Avoiding a similar spate of injuries is a prerequisite to any playoff hopes, and so far, so good.

Besides injury risks and the stiff competition out West, the Pelicans also have to contend with their own inexperience. Led by the 21-year-old Davis and 25-or-less core of Holiday, Evans and Gordon, this is a young team. There may be some growing pains ahead.

In October,’s Jim Eichenhofer broke down just how novel a postseason appearance would be for this group:

New Orleans (34-48 last season) only has four players on its 15-man roster with NBA postseason experience, led by Omer Asik’s 33 career games. John Salmons (28 career playoff games), Ryan Anderson (20) and Jrue Holiday (18) round out the quartet. In other words, if New Orleans can advance to the playoffs this season in the brutally competitive West, Davis and 10 other Pelicans will be making their postseason debut.

Among the significant barriers to playoff entry in the West, pedigree matters. Having been there and done that, teams like the Thunder and Grizzlies have an edge in the event of a tight battle for that No. 8 seed.

But the Pelicans have something to prove, and there’s no telling how far that mandate will take them.

“I think it would mean a lot to get there,” Evans said in October, per Eichenhofer. “We’ve got a good group of guys. It would be great to get that playoff berth and be able to play playoff basketball. But we’ve got to start with the regular season and take one game at a time.”

New Orleans has 74 more of those games to go, and—space permitting—perhaps a few more.

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Will the Charlotte Hornets Make the Playoffs This Season?

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Justin Becker of You can him on twitter @NBAandNFLInfo or on theFantasy Basketball Money Leagues Google+ Page, and for more Charlotte Hornets News and Rumors visit Fantasy Basketball Money Leagues today!
Fans will become engrossed with the Charlotte Hornets this season as they attempt to cement themselves as one of the league’s best and most exciting teams. The team recently renamed themselves the Hornets and to concur with the name, they added pieces that make them a more competitive team than they were last season. Even though it’s early in the season, there are more than enough reasons to believe this Hornets’ team will be one of the eight teams to make playoffs out of the East.
Without a superstar on the team, they have the ability to compete all season against any team, given their roster. They are led by their stellar trio of Kemba Walker, Lance Stephenson and Al Jefferson. This future big 3 will someh…

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Kyrie Irving asks Mike Miller if game against Bulls is what playoffs feel like (Video)

With LeBron James returning to Cleveland and Kevin Love coming over from the Timberworlves to team up with Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers are the favorite of many to represent the Eastern Conference in next year’s NBA Finals. If that happens, Love and Irving will get their first taste of playoff basketball. It’s tough to simulate…Read More

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Chances of Each NBA Team Making the Playoffs Heading into 2014-15 Regular Season

It’s all about getting to the NBA playoffs. 

From there, anything can happen. We’ve seen No. 8 seeds take down No. 1 seeds, and if that can become a reality, then there’s at least a possibility of an overmatched squad pulling off upset after upset en route to a championship. Sixteen teams have a distinct chance at holding up the Larry O’Brien Trophy after the regular season, while the other 14 are forced to watch from home. 

At this point in the year, everything revolves around the postseason, whether teams are just trying to gain entry to the all-important festivities or attempting to position themselves with a specific seed. A title is the ultimate goal, but the playoffs are the first step. 

Unfortunately, not every team has a legitimate shot to make it past the 82nd game of the 2014-15 campaign. And even those that do can be placed in a hierarchy of their own, counting down toward the one squad that’s the biggest postseason lock of all. 

These rankings are not about which team is best, and a squad that comes in one spot ahead of another isn’t necessarily better. They’re determining which franchises have the best chance to make the playoffs, looking at upside for those that aren’t projected to be a top-16 team and the floor for those that are. 

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5 underrated NBA teams that can make it to the playoffs

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Ron, the lead editor of FantasyBasketballMoneyLeagues.Com – great source of NBA news and rumors. You can follow @NBAFantasyInfo via Twitter or via Facebook page for more updates.
The NBA is a tale of two conferences. Last season, the 48-win Phoenix Suns didn’t make the Western Conference Playoffs after a very successful season. In the Eastern Conference, the 38-44 Atlanta Hawks snatched the final playoff spot. Heading into the 2014-2015 season, there will be a team that sneaks up on the league and makes the playoffs. Here are five potential squads that could do that:

Phoenix Suns – Phoenix won’t be sneaking up on anyone this season as they won 48 games a year ago. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to make the playoffs. With the dynamic backcourt of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe back, this team isn’t going anywhere and added a great scorer off the bench in Isaiah Thomas. Expect the Suns to compete for a spot in the playoffs this season and in t…

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Watchability: Davis’ Pelicans need the playoffs

The Pelicans need to do something this year with all their vast talent.



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Thaddeus Young: Kevin Love’s “26 and 12 didn’t make the playoffs”

Thaddeus Young may be the Minnesota Timberwolves’ new starting power forward, but he’s not looking to fill the void left by Kevin Love. At the team’s Media Day, Young reminded everyone that, despite putting up a gaudy 26 points and 12 rebounds per night, Love’s Wolves fell short of the postseason.
Thaddeus: I’m not trying to replace 26 and 12. 26 and 12 didn’t make it to the playoffs
— Jon Krawczynski (@APkrawczynski) September 29, 2014

Naturally, as Twitter removes context, Young quickly followed up on his quote with a “no shade” caveat.
No shade intended ppl. Just basically said I’m not trying 2 be @kevinlove & don’t want 2 be. Teams make it 2 playoffs, not stats. #facts
— Thad Young (@yungsmoove21) September 29, 2014

He’s right, and it’s certainly the diplomatic thing to say. Young also spoke convincingly, describing himself as a mentor to the second-year players (Anthony Bennett and Shabazz Muhammad), as well as rookies (Andrew Wiggins), after several years as a P

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Jackson thinks Knicks will make playoffs

New York Knicks president Phil Jackson thinks his team is going to playoffs this season. “In what league,” you ask? The NBA. And no, they haven’t expanded the playoffs to 30 teams. According to Ian Begley of, Jackson is serious when stating his beliefs. Someone may want to monitor Jackson on a daily basis to make sure he’s not developing early stages of old man’s syndrome. In case you didn’t pay attention to the Knicks last season (don’t worry, you we not alone), they won 37 games in a weak Eastern Conference, just one game back of the eighth and final playoff spot. Not bad, even if the East is the inferior conference in the Association. That said, the team who finished behind the Knicks added guys named LeBron James and Kevin Love. Unless Jackson thought the Cavs played in the West, the Knicks have another team to worry about in their race to the postseason. And what about that roster? Props to Jackson for keeping Carmelo Anthony around to sell tickets. But third-grade level re

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