Is tanking the right strategy for NYK?

Is tanking the answer in New York? Some second-half success could hurt the Knicks' lottery hopes. Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK -- Langston Galloway gathered the ball in the deepest corner of the court with two seconds left on the shot clock late Wednesday night. With the Knicks up by four in a game they were desperate to win, Galloway squared up and knocked down a seemingly impossible 25-foot fadeaway over 6-foot-8 forward Jerami Grant.

The shot, which sealed the Knicks’ first set of consecutive wins in nearly three months, set off a wild celebration.

Players on the Knicks’ bench erupted. Galloway streaked down the court and met Lou Amundson in midair for a chest bump to put an exclamation point on the play -- and the rare Knicks win.

In a season full of misery, this was a moment in which the Knicks could revel.

Shortly after the win, point guard Jose Calderon tried to explain what exactly had gone right for the Knicks in the final minutes.

“I think we did a better job executing than we’re used to doing,” Calderon said. “And we’re getting better.”

In a normal season, this would be a welcome development for an NBA team. But this season has been anything but normal for New York.

When Phil Jackson decided to trade Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith to Cleveland for a 2019 second-round pick and two trade exceptions, he changed the calculus on the Knicks’ 2014-15 season.

With that move, Jackson made it clear that he was focused on clearing as much cap space as possible for the 2015 offseason.

The Knicks also own their first-round draft pick this season. So, naturally, the feeling among most people around the league is that the Knicks are tanking to gain a top pick in June’s draft.

Of course, no one associated with the Knicks will say that the team wants to lose games to improve its lottery standing.

“I think that’s a bad mentality to have,” Carmelo Anthony said last week.

But the writing is on the wall.

And that’s what makes nights like Wednesday such a double-edged sword for New York.

Each win the rest of the way can hurt the Knicks’ chances of landing the top pick.

The team that finishes with the fewest wins has the best chance (25 percent) to land the top pick in the draft.

Entering play Monday, the Knicks (8-37) own the second-worst record in the NBA. They are percentage points ahead of the Timberwolves (7-36) and have one more loss than the Sixers (8-36).

Unless things change significantly for either team, all three will jockey for position in a race for last place the rest of the way.

And the stakes are high.

The club that finishes with the second-worst record has a 19.9 percent chance of landing the top pick; the third-worst team has a 15.6 percent chance.

It’s worth noting, though, that finishing with the worst record doesn’t guarantee anything.

Since the lottery moved to its present format in 1994, the team with (or tied for) the best odds has won three of the 20 lotteries. (Philadelphia took Allen Iverson in 1996; Cleveland selected LeBron James in 2003; Orlando picked Dwight Howard in 2004.)

The team with the second-best odds has won the lottery twice, and the teams with the third- and fifth-best odds have won it four times each.

So no matter how many games the Knicks lose, there’s no way to ensure that they’ll land the No. 1 pick.

Also, it’s not exactly the end of the world for the Knicks if they don’t land the top pick, particularly in a draft that’s likely to feature more than one elite prospect (Jahlil Okafor, Emmanuel Mudiay, Karl-Anthony Towns).

Remember, franchise-altering players have been taken second (Kevin Durant, 2007), third (Carmelo Anthony, 2003) and fourth (Russell Westbrook, 2008) in recent drafts.

Maybe that’s one reason Derek Fisher dismissed a question about tanking earlier this week.

“You're asking the wrong person about that,” Fisher said. “... The only way I know how to approach a game is to try to win it every time.”

Question: Do you think the Knicks should tank the season to land a top pick?