The Knicks won a basketball game Thursday night. That has not happened since Jan. 4.
There won’t be a ticker-tape parade, but it was a surprise. This, after all, has been a really bad season for the Knicks.
They are 11-47. The win, over the Atlanta Hawks, 106-91, broke an 18-game losing streak, which was a franchise record.
The team traded away its most popular player by far, Kristaps Porzingis, and in return got a rookie and a couple of expiring contracts. The deal also meant the cancellation of the coming Latvian Heritage Night at Madison Square Garden, which frankly was shaping up to be one of the highlights of the season.
To be fair, a core of loyalists insist that these Knicks are a fun bunch to watch. And there is optimistic talk for next year.
The Knicks are bad enough to have a decent shot at the top draft pick, probably Zion Williamson, Duke’s superstar big man. Cap space will allow the team to seek big-name free agents, and there is sunny speculation that the team could land stars like Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving or even both.
We’ll see about that. But for now, fans are left pondering if the Knicks are historically dreadful or just run-of-the-mill dreadful.
Let’s see how the Knicks rate, at least in the current century.
That means this year’s Knicks won’t have to compete against the consensus worst team of them all, the legendary 9-73 Philadelphia 76ers of 1972-73.
Despite a couple of 50-win seasons, in 2000 and 2013, the Knicks’ winning percentage this century is .416, worst in the N.B.A. Yes, even worse than the Washington Wizards, and Charlotte Hornets, and even the Nets.
Here is how the 2018-19 Knicks stack up.
This is where it begins and ends. Wins. Losses. But mostly losses. Lots and lots of losses.
The Knicks are 11-47, giving them a winning percentage that looks like a typo: .190.
But there were worse seasons in the last 20 years. In 2012, the Bobcats (now the Hornets) finished at 7-59 in a lockout season for a .106 percentage.
Over a full season, the 76ers in 2016, in full tanking mode, only barely managed to break double digit wins with a 10-72 record.
The Knicks are only 11th worst.
Longest Losing Streak
Even counting just those streaks that are contained in a single season, the Knicks’ 18-gamer comes up short. The 2011 Cleveland Cavaliers and the 2014 76ers both managed to stumble to 26 straight losses. After Thursday’s win, the Knicks have lost their chance at that ignominious record.
Worst Point Differential
The Knicks have been outscored by 8.7 points in an average game this season.
Again, there have been worse teams. The 2012 Charlotte strike team lost by 13.9 points a game. The 2000 Clippers put up minus-11.5 over a full season.
The Knicks are only 25th.
There are those Sixers again: In 2015, they shot .408 for the season. At .430, the Knicks are 39th.
The 2009 Grizzlies had only 17.4 assists per game, trailed closely by the 2006 Knicks of Larry Brown, Stephon Marbury and notorious nonpasser Eddy Curry.
This season’s Knicks aren’t good, but they aren’t really bad, at 19.9, for 91st place.
It is not a good time for defensive stats in the N.B.A. Using the metric points allowed per 100 possessions, three teams this season are in the top five of the century: The Cavaliers are allowing 117 points per 100, worst of the era, and indeed for as far back as Basketball-Reference’s stats go. Over the last 20 years, this season‘s Suns are second, and the Knicks, at 113.4, are seventh.
Do any of this year’s Knicks individually reach truly humiliating marks? Not really.
Frank Ntilikina’s .342 shooting percentage is poor certainly, but it is only 24th worst among players with 15 minutes a game and 40 games played, a lot better than DeShawn Stevenson’s .285 from the 2012 Nets.
So we are forced to conclude, that while dispiritingly bad, the Knicks come up short in another way too. They are not even really close to being the worst team of the last 20 years.
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