Do The New York Knicks Need A PG?
The New York Knicks suffered through years of losing; from 2001 to 2010 they made the playoffs only once where they lost in the first round. The Knicks put a plan in place in hopes of returning the team to the playoffs that included clearing as much cap space as possible for the free agent bonanza of 2010.
The Knicks may have missed out on LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, but their consolation prize was landing a franchise big man in Amar’e Stoudemire. The Knicks also got lucky when Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets forced his way onto the Knicks via trade.
Heading into the 2011-12 season (if it ever starts, of course), the Knicks will be one of the most exciting teams in the Eastern Conference. Few teams can boast of having two superstars on their roster and the Knicks are primed to earn their second straight trip to the playoffs.
Much of this offseason, the talk has been about how do the Knicks take the next step and go from a playoff team to a contending team? The Knicks are set at small forward and power forward with Anthony and Stoudemire, and they have a young, defensive-minded shooting guard in Landry Fields.
It’s become clear the Knicks need an upgrade at center. They ended last season with Ronny Turiaf and Jared Jeffries taking most of the minutes. Stoudemire also played center, but the Knicks want him to play most of his minutes at his natural position of power forward.
Whether the Knicks can address that need this offseason is yet to be determined, but the real question is whether the Knicks already have their point guard of the future, or if they need to be looking at that position as well.
The Knicks currently have three point guards on the roster: veteran Chauncey Billups who they acquired in the Anthony trade, third-year player Toney Douglas, and rookie combo guard Iman Shumpert.
Billups will enter the upcoming season as the starter, and health permitting is the perfect fit next to Fields, Anthony and Stoudemire. He is a pass-first point guard with the ability to run the fast break, knock down the open three when Soudemire or Anthony are double-teamed, and is excellent in the pick-and-roll, a staple of the Knicks’ offense.
The issue with Billups is his age; he turned 35 this past September. At some point his body is likely to start breaking down and he won’t be able to compete at the same level. If there is a season, barring major injury Billups should be able to lead this Knicks team. In 21 games last year as a Knick, he averaged 17.5 points and 5.5 assists per game. With a full season in a Knicks uniform, Billups’ numbers are likely to improve.
Looking past this year, once Billups can no longer lead the team the Knicks will need a replacement. The big question is whether Douglas or Shumpert can be that guy or if the Knicks need to move right now and look at bringing in a point guard.
Shumpert is a 6’5’’, 222-pound combo guard. He is capable of leading the fast break or finishing it off with his 42’ vertical leap. His size and strength are an advantage playing point guard and he is most likely already the Knicks best defensive option at the position. Whether he is able to lead the team on offense is the real question.
During Shumpert’s final season at Georgia Tech he averaged over 17 points per game on better than 47% shooting from the field, grabbed almost six rebounds a night, and dished 3.5 assists. Shumpert’s skill set seems like a perfect fit for this Knicks team, and after being drafted in the first round, the Knicks would be wise to give him a shot off the bench, before they do something drastic and look for an upgrade at point guard.
While Shumpert is still unproven, Douglas has shown the Knicks that when given the opportunity he is a starting caliber point guard. In 21 career games as a starter Douglas has averaged better than 14 points a game and 4.6 assists. Last season, in nine starts his numbers were even better, averaging 13.9 points, 5.7 assists, 52.2% from the field, and almost 47% from the behind the arc.
If Billups can’t lead the team because of injury or his age finally catches up to him, Douglas has proven he deserves a chance to be the team’s starting point guard. He is familiar with the system, can knock down an open three, and has proven he can play next to Stoudemire and Anthony.
The biggest rumor attached to the Knicks this offseason was them making a move to acquire Chris Paul, either via trade or pursuing him in free agency in the summer of 2012. Chris Paul would obviously be a huge upgrade over the players currently on the Knicks roster. He is a pass-first point guard and arguably the best point guard in the NBA.
If the Knicks could land Paul they should, but it’s unlikely they would be able to trade for him. The Knicks used their trade assets last year in acquiring Anthony and their current roster is pretty thin on tradable assets. A package built around Billups’ expiring contract and some young talent like Douglas, Shumpert and/or Fields isn’t likely to tempt New Orleans.
If the Knicks hold onto their cap space this year and try and add to it (as of now they have $45.3 million committed to 2012-13, not likely enough room for a max contract), then pursuing Paul in free agency in 2012 makes some sense, but it won’t solve their defensive issues in the frontcourt. The Knicks will be able to score with Anthony and Stoudemire, the real issue will be stopping other teams. It makes more sense for the Knicks to pursue a defensive big men either this year or next like Nene, Dwight Howard, or Tyson Chandler.
Another name that has come up is Steve Nash, who is older than Billups and has become a staple in Phoenix. It seems unlikely the Suns would trade Nash for the assets the Knicks would be willing to give up, so again the best bet for the Knicks would be to wait a year when he would be an unrestricted free agent and see if he was willing to join the Knicks on the cheap.
It doesn’t make sense for the Knicks to trade young up-and-coming talent or to spend big money on an aging point guard in the twilight of his career when they have younger and cheaper options already on the team.
If the Knicks decide to upgrade at point guard, they need to focus on a pass-first player. Bringing in a scoring point like Aaron Brooks won’t help the team and in fact they could regress if they bring in another player who needs the ball. The Knicks would be well served to wait and see what happens their young guards and let them spend the year learning under Billups, the former Finals MVP.
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