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Draymond Green is running his mouth again. I know you're shocked. But ... his latest pot-stirring comment might, just maybe, be rooted in some truth. Knicks fans are going to string me up for this, but whatever. It's worth discussing. 

So the New York Knicks have become the NBA's darling and for good reason. They feel like, and in many ways are, the scrappy underdog who has fought its way to within two wins of the conference finals. It's a beautiful basketball story that Green is now raining doo-doo on by calling it a fluke. Yeah, he said it. What the Knicks are doing right now is a fluke

From Green's podcast with Knicks super fan Jason Calacanis:

"In the Eastern Conference, you can get to the conference finals playing very mid teams," Green said. "That's kind of what [the Knicks] are doing right now. And I think what this is setting y'all [the Knicks and their fans] up for is what happened to the Atlanta Hawks three years ago, when they made the conference finals and never got back. 

"Another team that did this, to give you some perspective on this, was the Portland Trail Blazers," Green continued. "Years ago [2019], when they had Al-Farouq Aminu, Allen Crabbe, they had all those guys and they went to the conference finals and we [the Warriors] swept them pretty much without Steph Curry.

"They [the Blazers] ran off and paid all of those guys because they thought they had a team that had a chance, and it was a fluke," Green concluded. "And so, that's what the Knicks are setting y'all [the fans] up for right now. And it'll probably be another 15 years of misery that we'll all sit around and laugh at Knicks fans with their delusion."

Hoo boy. Green was on one here. But he also ... and I feel like I need to whisper this ... might have a point? Look, we don't need to get into the NBA's conference imbalance mess. That's a much deeper discussion. But we can all agree the East is collectively weaker than the West. Green pointing out that it's easier for a team to make a, shall we say, circumstantially friendly playoff run in a weaker conference is not some off-the-wall assertion. It's a fact. 

And the Knicks have indeed benefitted from the breaking of a friendly bracket. First, they got to play the 76ers with Joel Embiid on one leg and suffering from Bell's palsy in the first round. That series still went six games, and that's including the Knicks' Game 2 victory that was a basketball robbery, as admitted by the league in its Last Two-Minute Report the following day. 

To be fair, the league also said Tyrese Maxey's four-point play that saved Philly in Game 5 shouldn't have counted. But the whistles still blew, or didn't, and had Game 2 concluded differently, which it very easily could have, the Knicks at least have to play a Game 7 and there's a reasonable argument to be made for the potential of a first-round elimination. 

But OK, they got through the Sixers with Embiid hurt. Fine. The Knicks were without Julius Randle and Bojan Bogdanovic and by the end Mitchell Robinson, so fair play. But now they're getting the Pacers in their second-round series. Another name for the Pacers is the Indiana "not the healthy Bucks." 

Yes, I'm aware the Bucks kind of stunk all season, relative to expectations, and the Knicks certainly could have defeated a healthy version of that team in a seven-game series. I don't know if they would have. But they could have. 

The point is, they didn't have to find out, and playing the Pacers rather than Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard in a playoff series is different. It just is. I don't care how big a Knicks fan you are. You can't argue that statement. 

And so Green's point does hold water. Not all playoff runs are created equal, and when evaluating the realistic potential of a given roster moving forward, you have to take circumstances into account. The Atlanta Hawks, to Green's point, thought they were a title-caliber after their run to the 2021 conference finals. 

They weren't. Not even close. The last three years have shown that. But playing a Knicks team -- ironically enough -- that wasn't as good that year as its No. 4 seed suggested in the first round, and a Sixers team that was imploding in real time in the second round, fooled them into thinking they were something they weren't. 

Based on that faulty information, they didn't upgrade the roster that summer, and then made a desperate trade for Dejounte Murray once they realized that 2021 run was probably a little deceiving. They fired their coach and hired Quin Snyder to save the day ... and got worse. They haven't gotten out of the first round since. Hell, they haven't even made the first round two of the last three years. 

Green is also right about the Blazers' run in 2019, which started with a 28-point rally to beat the Kings on the final night of the regular season despite playing a borderline G-League six-player rotation. They had zero intention of winning that game, but they did, and the rest of the results that night fell their way, and boom, just like that, they found themselves opposite the Warriors and Rockets in the bracket. 

In other words, the two best teams had to play one another in the second round, while the Blazers -- who indeed were swept by the Warriors (who were without Kevin Durant, not Curry, as Green misspoke) in the conference finals -- got to play the Thunder and the Nuggets, who they squeaked past in seven games. 

It goes without saying, but that Blazers team was not a conference finals team. Circumstances broke their way and they maxed out, for one year, in a manner that was not replicable moving forward. As a general rule, unrealistic expectations are the root of franchise frustration. Portland deluded itself for another four years before it waved the white flag and traded Lillard. Atlanta has made it three, and very well might be looking to trade Trae Young. Call it death by deception. 

So the question becomes: If the Knicks do make the conference finals, are they deceiving themselves, and their fans, to make that a reasonable expectation moving forward, or has there been some luck backed into this 2024 bracket? I'd say a little of both. 

Again, there's no doubt the Knicks could be on a tougher playoff road than they're currently navigating, and there is surely a realistic world in which Knicks fans spoil themselves a new conference finals standard only to never return there with this roster iteration. 

But that's where this 2021 Hawks comp falls off the rails. The Knicks have way more capacity to upgrade their roster with eight trade-eligible first-round picks in their holster. They have wisely held off on pulling a premature trigger on a big-name trade (they got lucky that Cleveland swooped in for Donovan Mitchell), and have instead made smart, economical signings while developing their own players to a point where Immanuel Quickley and R.J. Barrett were enough to lure OG Anunoby without giving up draft equity. 

Also, it bears repeating that New York has gotten this far without Julius Randle, and to a lesser degree Bogdanovic, and it'll be without Mitchell Robinson for however long it remains alive in the playoffs. Anunoby is out for Game 3. Brunson is banged up. 

Even if the Knicks didn't make a single outside acquisition this summer and simply got fully healthy, they are a better team than that 2021 Hawks squad that was a .500 team for much of the season and caught lightning in a bottle. Hell, Jalen Brunson over Trae Young alone makes that an irrefutable claim. And the Blazers comp isn't a good one either, if only because the Knicks play in the East. Portland had to make assessments of its situation against, as detailed, a far deeper conference hierarchy. 

Brunson is for real, and so are the Knicks. I do not agree with Green whatsoever that the Knicks are headed for another 15 years of "misery." Good times, possibly great times, are ahead for this franchise. Players are going to want to play there with this kind of excitement surrounding one of the most marketable franchises in all of sports, and again, even just what they have right now is pretty special in its blend of complementary talent and palpable on- and off-court chemistry. 

But yes, the bracket has broken New York's way in 2024. So have a few potentially series-defining calls, first in Game 2 against the Sixers and then again in Game 1 against the Pacers, who were robbed on a phantom kicked ball and one of the weakest moving-screen whistles you'll ever hear. 

So when you look back at all this, if the Knicks don't get that call in the Philly series and go out in round one, or don't get those two calls in Game 1 vs. Indiana, and are now in a 1-1 series without Anunoby and possibly Brunson and end up getting bounced in the second round, that looks a lot different on paper than a conference finals berth. 

The Knicks are a good enough team to make the conference finals when healthy, and certainly, as we are seeing right now, even unhealthy as long as the bracket breaks right. But this probably shouldn't be the baseline expectation moving forward. They're not the Celtics or even the healthy Bucks or Sixers. This isn't a Finals-or-bust situation. There's a lot of room to grow here. 

New York, if you think about is, is kind of playing with house money right now given the injuries they are battling, and as long as the New York fans keep that in mind (haha) and don't go over-inflating their hopes moving forward, they can properly enjoy what is almost certainly going to be an extremely entertaining next half decade in the Big Apple.