Knicks president Leon Rose appeared on the Zoom lottery dais last year and made sure he didn’t have to come back for an encore.
Patrick Ewing got the nod on the actual lottery set pre-pandemic in 2019. Walt Frazier has been a dais good-luck charm, as has Allan Houston. Former Knicks president Steve Mills and current GM Scott Perry each popped on once.
Tuesday the 14-team lottery will be held again virtually at 8:30 p.m. — without the Knicks for the first time since 2014.
Nobody expected the Knicks to be absent, figured they’d be crossing their fingers again for a top-shelf 2021 draft on July 29 known for its Big 5 — versatile Cade Cunningham (Oklahoma State), point guard Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga), wing Jonathan Kuminga (G-League Elite), wing Jalen Green (G-League Elite) and big man Evan Mobley (USC).
“Minus an injury or uncovering a major character flaw, I’d be very surprised if the top five isn’t locked in,’’ ESPN’s draft analyst Fran Fraschilla told The Post. “The order may change but that’s it.’’
“Fade for Cade”?
Hardly. Rose hired a coach who cares about winning now in Tom Thibodeau and the Knicks zoomed to a 41-31 record, fourth place in the Eastern Conference. Yes, they lost to the Hawks in five games but look at Atlanta now, gearing up for Wednesday’s Eastern Conference finals versus Milwaukee.
Tuesday, it’s Houston, Detroit and Orlando heading the lottery field. Those three rebuilding clubs each have a 14 percent chance of winning the lottery and likely the rights to Cunningham, the 6-foot-8 combo guard who can play four positions. However, only the Rockets (17-55) are assured of a top-five pick under the new lottery math.
The Pistons and Magic, despite all their losing this season, could drop to No. 6 and not be in position for a top-5 gem, but small forward Scott Barnes (Florida State), Baylor point guard Davion Mitchell and guard Keon Johnson (Tennessee) aren’t too shabby either.
The draft again will be more of a crapshoot than normal. College scouts weren’t allowed at practices this pandemic season and limited at live games. The college season also had many restrictions. ESPN’s college basketball guru Seth Greenberg thinks it will make evaluations tougher.
“It’s harder to evaluate kids this year on face value in a pandemic year where they weren’t being coached the way they normally are,’’ Greenberg told The Post. “There wasn’t enough engagement to elevate their games. No one’s talking about that. Interacting with coaches, going to a coach’s house for film sessions. All the interpersonal things you’d do for player development, you couldn’t do this year. Even extra shooting. The players missed a year of development. They didn’t have the opportunity to improve but may still have it in them.’’
The draft combine in Chicago is back to normal, however, and starts this week with interviews and workouts.
The Knicks are lottery bystanders. They hold the 19th, 21st, 32nd and 58th picks. If they package three of them, they can possibly move up to the late lottery.
The lottery dais will be headlined by Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards, the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft as the Timberwolves are back in their familiar role among the NBA’s big-time losers. They will give their pick away to Golden State if they don’t move into the top three.
Rounding up the rear are No. 11 Charlotte, No. 12 San Antonio, No. 13 Indiana and No. 14 Golden State. They all have pingpong balls despite participating in the play-in event. Their immediate ousters got them back in the lottery. Sources believe the same format will take place next season.
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