How Knicks Should Approach Post-All Star Break

There is a difference, not a subtle void but a huge divide, between tanking and strategic evaluation.

I know of no professional athlete, coach or GM that embraces losing as a means to an end. So let’s be clear, the Knicks should not be entertaining the idea of a better position in the 2018 NBA Draft by piling up losses. And they’re not.

There is enough talent on this team, despite the season-ending injuries to Kristaps Porzingis (knee) and Ron Baker (shoulder), to win. And that should be the goal every night.

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But the Knicks also must use the final 23 games post-NBA All-Star break to assess the roster. The Knicks (23-36) have lost eight straight and are 7.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the East.

So here’s a look at how the Knicks should approach the post-All-Star break:

1 – When asked his feelings about the Knicks acquiring point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, rookie Frank Ntilikina, 19, handled himself with the same maturity he’s shown since coming to New York.

“We can build something really great,’’ Ntilikina said. “We have kind of the same background. It’s just so exciting to have a guy like that who is young and really can build a future.

“We have kind of the same background. It’s just so exciting to have a guy like that who is young and really can build a future.”

I love the mentoring and leadership that Jarrett Jack has provided Ntilikina, Mudiay, Baker and Trey Burke. But at the age of 34 with 12 NBA seasons, it’s time for Jack to take a back seat and let the young guns blaze.

Ntilikina, Mudiay and Burke need to get as many minutes as possible. They need to work in various combinations and learn how to complement each other. Especially in crunch time.

2 – Tim Hardaway Jr. did what all good shooters do – he never lost his confidence despite a horrific slump and recently torched the Wizards for 37 points on 14-of-24 shooting including 6-of-9 on 3s.

Hardaway needs to be the primary option going forward. Instead of being KP’s wingman, he can use the rest of this season to quantum leap his confidence and role as the go-to option.

If Hardaway can become a consistent 20-point per game scorer, the Knicks will be more prolific when Porzingis returns next season.

3 – Michael Beasley has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the season. The 6-foot-9 forward always has been able to score with one hand tied behind his back but he’s rebounding and taking smarter shots. In short, this is the most mature Beasley we’ve seen in the NBA.

The test will be to see if the Knicks can keep Beasley engaged if the losses mount and he finds himself on the floor with a group of less experienced players.

If there's an elephant in the room, your favorite player's favorite player Michael Beasley probably brought it. Catch all the best moments from the most interesting Knick in the world, Michael Beasley.

4 – ESPN’s terrific NBA reporter Zach Lowe wrote that the Knicks are ‘giving minutes to something called Luke Kornet, which sounds like a woodwind instrument.’ Cute line but the Knicks should be giving minutes to the 7-foot-1 stretch forward.

Kornet was a late bloomer in high school, standing just 6-foot-7. That allowed him to develop a perimeter game. Then came the growth spurt. Kornet needs to add muscle to his 250 pounds, but he has a shot – he’s made three 3s and grabbed 11 rebounds in just 40 minutes of play.

Can he develop into a taller Steve Novak? Only one way to find out. Play him. When not on the court – stick Kornet in the weight room. He might make some sweet music next season.

5 – Damyean Dotson’s college coach Kelvin Sampson told MSGNetworks.com that the 3-point marksman was a better shooter coming out of college than Courtney Lee, who he said was a better all-around player.

Without Doug McDermott, who the Knicks traded to get Mudiay, the Knicks need to get a better sense if Dotson has more to his game than the 3-ball. Lee is having one of the best seasons of his career but he’s a savvy veteran that believes in team ball and team building. He won’t make waves if Dotson gets a little more time.

ALL-STAR NOTES:

Ntilikina will compete in the Rising Stars Challenge.

“I just want to enjoy this experience and trying to just take my mind off, think of something else and come back even stronger,’’ Ntilikina told The NY Post.

“I’ve learned a lot. Of course, I haven’t reached my potential but I’m extremely confident where I can be in this league. From the first part of the season, I said I can do great things here and I still do.’’

[Watch Knicks-Magic on MSG & MSG GO Thursday, Feb. 22. Download Free.]