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NBA Draft Lottery: Can Knicks Break History of Bad Luck?

The Patrick Ewing surprise in the inaugural edition aside, the ping-pong balls of the NBA Draft Lottery have been unkind to the New York Knicks.

Like Han Solo before them, don't tell the New York Knicks the odds. 

The Knicks enter Tuesday night's NBA Draft Lottery proceedings (8 p.m. ET, ESPN) with a two percent chance of leapfrogging over 10 fellow non-playoff competitors for the right to choose first at next month's draft. 

RJ Barrett, New York Knicks
RJ Barrett, New York Knicks
RJ Barrett, New York Knicks

Lottery day, often seen as a silver lining in the realm of those who fall short of the 16-team postseason, is best known for its maiden voyage, where the Knicks won the Patrick Ewing sweepstakes. 

Since then, however, New York's star-crossed basketball nature has carried over to the ping-pong balls, as the Knicks have lost draft ground in seven of their ensuing 17 visits...

1986 (-4)

History failed to repeat itself at the second lottery, where the Knicks entered with the league's worst record after Ewing and Bernard King dealt with injuries in the former's freshman year. With equal odds bestowed to the seven participants at the time, New York fell to fifth behind Philadelphia, Boston (playoff teams that jumped into the lottery via trades), Golden State, and Indiana. 

The ensuing draft was, sadly, marred by tragedy, as second-overall pick Len Bias passed from a drug overdose two days after his selection. New York wound up with Kentucky standout Kenny Walker, whose development was handicapped by a coaching carousel. Injuries limited him to seven NBA seasons (five in New York), though he did win the 1989 Slam Dunk Contest.

1987 (-3)

After falling from second to fifth in their third appearance in as many lotteries, the Knicks wound up playing an indirect role in forming one of the NBA's greatest dynasties...and one of their greatest adversaries. 

New York wound up swapping first-round picks with the playoff-bound Seattle SuperSonics, at No. 18 in a deal that also obtained former All-Star Gerald Henderson. Though Henderson spent two uneventful seasons in Manhattan, the Seattle pick landed them Mark Jackson. While Jackson was serviceable, topping the 1988 Rookie of the Year voting, the Sonics used later flipped the Knicks' original choice to the Chicago that paired Scottie Pippen with Michael Jordan.

2008 (-1)

After a run of prosperity, staying home for 14 consecutive lotteries, the Knicks returned for eight of the next nine beginning in 2002. Fortune was relatively kind, as the Knicks stood pat in all but one.

Chicago's upset win (that yielded Derrick Rose) from the ninth spot moved the Knicks from fifth to sixth, where they got the international proceedings rolling with Danilo Gallinari. Though the Italian import was decent in New York (and elsewhere after he was involved in the Carmelo Anthony deal), his relatively brief Manhattan service was likely little consolation to those that had to watch the UCLA tandem of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love go immediately before him. 

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2015 (-2)

The brutality of the 2014-15 season...statistically the worst in team history at 65 losses...was constantly offset by the promise of a high draft pick, one where the Knicks had the second-best odds behind the equally woebegone Minnesota Timberwolves. Alas, cross-country leapfrog put the Lakers in the second spot (taking D'Angelo Russell) while Minnesota and Philadelphia respectively took Karl Anthony-Towns and Jalil Okafor in their undisturbed first and third roles. 

Little needs to be said about the pick meteoric fall, rise, and fall of eventual fourth pick Kristaps Porzingis. Though the polarizing Latvian left New York on a sour note, it could've been worse: only one player chosen after Porzingis (No. 13 Devin Booker) has appeared in an NBA All-Star Game. Two of the top ten picks post-Porzingis (Mario Hezonja and Emmanuel Mudiay) are already out of the Association.

2017 (-1)

After staying stable in the 2016 edition (eventually trading that seventh pick to Denver, who used it on Jamal Murray), the Knicks dropped another spot the year after by virtue of the Sacramento Kings' five-slot leap (8th to 3rd). 

Down one slot, the Knicks eventually took Frank Ntilikina eighth overall from France while Lauri Markkanen went to Minnesota (and eventually Chicago via trade) in their regularly scheduled seventh spot. Though Donovan Mitchell went 13th, it's hard to complain about the situation, especially considering the general inconsistency in the picks above the current Dallas Maverick (and Western Conference championship bidder) Ntilikina.

2019 (-2)

Another 65-loss season was kept afloat by the sole consolation of Zion Williamson and/or Ja Morant, the assured top two selections of the 2019 draft. Alas, the basketball gods had a cruel surprise, bouncing the ping-pong balls south to New Orleans and Memphis, who respectively welcomed in the hyped duo. 

In hindsight, however, the Knicks' small but noticeable fall might've become a blessing. While Morant has reached the height of his powers with the Grizzlies, Williamson has struggled to make a lasting NBA impact due to injuries. The Knicks' selection of his Duke teammate RJ Barrett has provided a silver lining to the team's mediocre affairs over the last two seasons. Barrett has become a building block in New that could lure a game-changing talent like Williamson over in a trade.

2020 (-2)

Two risers from beyond the top three (Chicago and Charlotte) pushed the Knicks back to the last spot amongst the eight teams not invited to the Disney World bubble. With the lost spots, Onyeka Okongwu went to Atlanta while Detroit welcomed Killian Hayes. 

With their de facto consolation prize, the Knicks brought in another future Dunk Contest winner in Obi Toppin. In addition to his dunking prowess, Toppin has begun to develop as a contributing bench option for New York, while Okongwu and Hayes have seen their NBA journeys interrupted by early injuries.