Al Iannazzone Newsday Knicks beat writer Al Iannazzone.

Al Iannazzone joined Newsday in January 2012 as the Knicks’ beat writer, after covering the NBA for 11 years for The Record. Al covered the Knicks and Nets in that time, and also reported on the U.S. Open tennis tournament and other major sporting events. Al appeared regularly on the YES Network’s Nets pregame show from 2005-2011.

Follow him on Twitter @Al_Iannazzone.
Show More

The Knicks may be trying to win games, but they haven’t been successful doing that. They might be better off putting their trust in the Ping-Pong balls.

Owners of the eighth-worst record, the Knicks currently have a 2.88 percent chance of winning the NBA Draft Lottery and 10.03 percent odds getting one of the first three picks. Hey, you never know.

If they get one of the first two picks or at least land in the top seven, it might make this disappointing season worthwhile in the long run.

There are four point guards expected to go very high: Washington’s Markelle Fultz, UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, N.C. State’s Dennis Smith and Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox

No one is suggesting ‘falling for Ball’ or anything like that. But the Knicks already have waived Brandon Jennings and Derrick Rose will be a free agent. So the Knicks need not only a veteran point guard but a young one that it can pair with Kristaps Porzingis.

Here’s a little scouting report on the top four point guards. Who’s the best fit for the triangle? Don’t ask. Some of the scouts we spoke to said it would be Ball because of how smart he is, but one said it “would be a detriment” to take the ball out of his hands.

MARKELLE FULTZ

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Washington, 6-4, 195, Fr.

He’s expected to go No. 1. One longtime college scout said, “You put him in an NBA game, and he can score.” Another said, “he gives you the best combination when you talk about size, strength, ability to pass the ball and score.”

LONZO BALL

UCLA, 6-6, 190, Fr.

No one would be surprised if he went first. He’s been compared to Jason Kidd, and is a true facilitator. Both scouts said he makes everyone around him better. “He controls the entire tempo of the game,” the second scout said. “He’s got the highest IQ of any of these guys. He’s got the best instincts. He’s special.”

NBA videos

DENNIS SMITH

North Carolina State, 6-3, 195, Fr.

He’s could go in the top five. The first scout said “he got as much physical talent” as any of the point guards in the draft. But there is a red flag. “In terms of size and strength and athletic ability and being able to get his own shot, he can do all of that but to me there’s something missing,” the scout said. “He doesn’t play hard all the time.”

DE’AARON FOX

Kentucky, 6-4, 170, Fr.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

He’s tall, but lean and not a great shooter. But he’s a good pick-and-roll player, very quick and has been well-coached. Most of John Calipari’s ex-players excel in the NBA. “He’s the quickest point guard in this draft,” the second scout said. “He can create. He sees the floor, is unselfish and is potentially the best defender of this group.

If the Knicks are not in position to take one of these four, they could go with a more athletic wing player. Duke forward Jayson Tatum and Kentucky’s explosive guard Malik Monk — who the scouts consider more of a pure scorer with playmaking ability — could help the Knicks.

They also could look at French point guard Frank Ntilikina, who is considered the fifth-best point guard. The Knicks have scouted international players well lately. See Porzingis and Willy Hernangomez.

GIVE AND GO

  • The Knicks lost 12 consecutive games without Anthony before beating Orlando Monday. Before that, their last win without him was April 13, 2015 against Atlanta. In the last three seasons, the Knicks are 8-36 (. 181) when Anthony doesn’t play 67-108 (. 382).
  • Pacers president Larry Bird told the L.A. Times that he didn’t discuss dealing Paul George when he spoke to new Lakers president Magic Johnson before the trade deadline. “It’s all fake news anyway,” Bird said. “Somebody’s going to start it and it just was a snowball effect. It was not about Paul George.”
  • The Cavaliers lost their new rim protector after just 58 seconds when Andrew Bogut broke his leg in his debut. It’s a potentially big loss even though the Cavs were fine before signing Bogut. But the Warriors missed Bogut after he suffered a season-ending knee injury in Game 5 of the Finals. Cleveland won Games 5, 6 and 7 and the championship.

BIG DREAMS

Porzingis has visions of the Knicks someday being a perennial contending team like the Warriors. He said it would be “10 times bigger than what they’re doing just because this is New York and this city is hungry for basketball and hungry for success.”

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Carmelo Anthony had those same visions when he forced a trade to the Knicks in 2011. They have won one playoff series since then and have missed the postseason three straight years and counting.

“I had those thoughts and those dreams and those vivid pictures of being able to play at that level and be at that level here in New York,” Anthony said. “I understand what KP is saying. Anytime you can win here in New York, it’s always better than any place out there.”

Anthony said he still thinks about what it would be like to win a championship in New York. But he could be playing his final games as a Knick. Jackson tried to trade him before last month’s deadline and could look to move Anthony again this offseason.

HEAT SIZZLING

Miami’s Erik Spoelstra probably won’t win Coach of the Year, but he’s doing great work. The Heat, after losing Dwyane Wade to free agency, Chris Bosh for health reasons and Justise Winslow to injury after 18 games, have won 20 of its last 24 and began Saturday just one-game out of the East’s last playoff spot.

It’s a credit to Spoelstra and team president Pat Riley, a master at team building.

Riley told the Vertical that LeBron James’ decision to leave Miami was “the most shocking thing” that happened in more than two decades with the Heat.

“Our culture is the same,” Riley said. “You have your up years and your down years, but what can’t change is the way you do things.”

CUBAN DOWN ON RUSS

Russell Westbrook is on course to be only the second player to average a triple-double, but Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said he’s not an MVP candidate. Cuban, who has said Westbrook is an All-Star and not a superstar, lists James Harden and LeBron James as the top two choices.

“Harden, LeBron, toss up. [Westbrook’s] not,” Cuban said. He is having a great, incredible individual year. But the Rockets are a top-three record after everybody wrote them off because of James Harden. That’s the difference.”