Before the 2014-15 season, Phil Jackson said he believed the Knicks would make the playoffs.
They fell just 21 games short.
The Knicks president isn’t going quite as bold this year, but he’s still expressing plenty of postseason optimism:
- Bruce Beck of NBC 4 New York: “Do you believe that this franchise can rally and make the playoffs and maybe go even further?”
- Jackson: “Why not? I don’t know what’s so great about what’s out here in the East. We can fill that role.”
The Western Conference is better than the Eastern Conference, but the West’s advantages are at the top and bottom. In the middle – where the playoff cutoff is set – the East might be better.
The Pistons (44-38) were the East’s No. 8 seed, and the Bulls (42-40) and Wizards (41-41) got stuck in the lottery. In the West, the Rockets (41-41) made the postseason and the Trail Blazers (44-38) got the No. 5 seed.
So, the East’s overall weakness probably doesn’t do the Knicks much good. If the goal is just cracking the playoffs – something New York has yet to do in Jackson’s three seasons, including the one he took over during – the Knicks might have an easier time in the West.
Kristaps Porzingis, Carmelo Anthony and Robin Lopez give New York – which went 32-50 this season – a fighting chance. That’s a solid front line, though Melo is better at power forward, and Porzingis – like Lopez is – will soon be better at center (if he isn’t already). The Knicks need guard help, but they have cap space and the New York market can be appealing.
Can the Knicks make the playoffs? Sure. But it’s an uphill climb.