Simulating the Knicks’ Offseason

The draft lottery is almost upon us.

For Knicks fans, it’s one of the most important days the franchise has had in years, and an introduction to the most important offseason debatably in their history. A chance at the likes of Zion Williamson (and down the road, Kevin Durant), among others. The Knicks gave themselves a huge window for opportunity – or disappointment – with the Kristaps Porzingis trade on February 1. Now, the proverbial chickens are beginning to come home to roost.

How can we get an idea of what will happen for the Knicks in the coming months? Well, The Knicks Wall‘s Ryan Gray has developed an incredibly fun and impressively logically sound Offseason App, which allows you to walk through each stage of the offseason for the Knicks and see how things play out, by virtue of both your choices and the mercy of chance.

Naturally, I ran through the app 100 times.

These 100 simulations have been compiled into a spreadsheet to gain an idea of what is likely to happen for the Knicks this summer, starting with Tuesday’s lottery. Before we get into the results, I wanted to outline my process and strategy in each simulation:

  • My draft board was as follows (sorry, Cam Reddish stans):
    • Zion Williamson
    • Ja Morant
    • RJ Barrett
    • Jarrett Culver
    • De’Andre Hunter
  • I always waived Lance Thomas (sorry Lance, but that $7M team option was never being confirmed anyway).
  • I waived whatever combination of Damyean Dotson and Allonzo Trier that was necessary to open 2 full max slots, depending on what pick in the lottery I ended up with (higher picks garner higher salaries).
  • My free agent signing priority order was as follows:
    • Kevin Durant
    • Kawhi Leonard
    • Kyrie Irving
    • Klay Thompson
    • Jimmy Butler
    • Kemba Walker
    • Khris Middleton
    • Malcolm Brogdon
  • I never attempted to sign both Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker.
    • If I drafted Ja Morant, I did not attempt to sign either.
  • I did not attempt to sign any other free agents (sorry, Tobias Harris).
  • I always tried to trade for Anthony Davis, unless I ended up with Zion Williamson.
    • The only situation where I offered Zion for Davis was if I ended up with both Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard in free agency. For me, Kyrie wasn’t enough to make it worth it.

Now, let’s get into the results!

Draft/Trade

Player % of Simulations
De’Andre Hunter 39%
Jarrett Culver 22%
Zion Williamson 16%
Anthony Davis 12%
Ja Morant 7%
RJ Barrett 4%

Getting into the weeds of this table:

  • Clearly, the most likely scenario for the Knicks on Tuesday night is the 5th pick, hence Hunter, my 5th-ranked prospect, being a steady presence on my roster.
  • I may have gotten a little lucky Zion-wise, as the Knicks in reality have a 14% shot at Zion, but I ended up with him in 16 of my 100 simulations (and actually ended up with the 1st pick 17 times, as I traded Zion for Davis in 1 occurrence).
  • The Knicks’ shot at Anthony Davis is low, but at 12%, significant. Considering Jayson Tatum’s interesting season and Brandon Ingram’s injury, it’s very possible the Knicks end up with the best package.
  • In that vein, the relatively low percentages for Ja Morant and RJ Barrett are due to my consistent attempts to trade them both for Davis, and the higher likelihood of the Pelicans accepting a Morant/Barrett-based offer than one built around Hunter or Culver.

Free Agency

Player % of Simulations
Kevin Durant 57%
Jimmy Butler 27%
Kyrie Irving 23%
Kemba Walker 18%
Kawhi Leonard 15%
Klay Thompson 14%
Malcolm Brogdon 9%
Khris Middleton 7%

Kevin Durant to the Knicks.

It happened just over half the time, which feels about right given the current 1-1 betting odds that he ends up in New York. The app didn’t love Kyrie’s chances of coming over, and considering recent Lakers buzz, that may be fair.

Notes and Tidbits

Some other interesting quips through the 100 sims:

  • The most likely offseason: draft De’Andre Hunter; sign Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving (7% of simulations)
  • The “ideal” scenario, in my eyes, of signing both Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard and then trading for Anthony Davis, happened 4% of the time.
  • The most speculated combination of Zion Williamson, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving occurred just 3% of the time.
  • The doomsday scenario of none of my prioritized free agents deciding to sign happened 8% of the time.
  • There was a 70% chance the Knicks signed at least one of Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, or Kyrie Irving.
  • There were a whopping 60 different combinations that occurred through the 100 simulations – clearly, there is a wide range of potential outcomes (read as: don’t get your hopes up for one specific possibility).

And that about wraps things up! Huge thanks to The Knicks Wall for putting this awesome content out there, and allowing people like me to have fun with it. In the end, though the perfect scenario is far more unlikely than many are making it out to be, there are clearly many reasons for optimism, in that the Knicks don’t necessarily need to hit the jackpot at every stage of the process to have what could be considered a successful offseason.

Enjoy the rest of the Playoffs’ second round, and may the lottery odds be ever in our favor.

by Derek Reifer, Northwestern University

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