• Andrew Hughes

Assessing the Knicks' Point Guard Situation

The NBA offseason has begun and like America's Independence Day, it has produced a flurry of fireworks. Superstars have been traded left and right. Among them: Chris Paul, Paul George and Jimmy Butler. All three superstars have been traded to Western Conference squads hoping to challenge the Golden State Warriors for their throne. In the East, Philadelphia is the only team that has made any splashes. The team inked J.J. Redick to join a 76ers squad that has a trio in Markelle Fultz, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid that is ready to take the league by storm. Redick is the floor spacing sniper that may open up Brett Brown's offense. Other than Philly, the East has only seen teams become less competitive thus far. Gordon Hayward could change that narrative if he decides to join the Boston Celtics or the Miami Heat. Either way, Hayward isn't the final piece for either team to get them past the Cleveland Cavaliers. To the New York Knicks' credit, they also know they are not one piece away. In fact, the team is likely years away from being a serious contender in the East. Following Phil Jackson's much-needed departure, the Knicks are finally embracing the need for a slow and steady rebuild. Despite outlasting Jackson following a season-long pubic spat, Carmelo Anthony is looking to move on. He is reportedly open to waiving his no-trade clause to join the Houston Rockets or the Cleveland Cavaliers. This news comes after a rumor that Anthony came to Knicks management in hopes the team can reach a buyout. Anthony is likely on his way out of New York, whether it be through a buyout or through a trade. With Anthony gone, Kristaps Porzingis figures to be the focal point of the Knicks offense. In order for Porzingis' potential to fully be unlocked, he will need a floor general capable of dictating the offense in a way that gives Porzingis the touches he needs. The Knicks have been linked to several free agent point guards this offseason. Among them: Jeff Teague, Jrue Holiday and George Hill. Teague was nabbed by Tom Thibadeau in Minnesota. Holiday re-upped in New Orleans for a five year max deal. Hill remains on the market but his price tag may exceed what the Knicks can offer due to salary cap restrictions. With that in mind, it remains unlikely the Knicks will come away from free agency with a high end elite point guard. That may be a good thing, though. Last season the Knicks acquired Derrick Rose from the Bulls and gave him the keys to the offense. The belief before the season was that Rose could potentially set the table for Porzingis and Anthony. The trio would form a big three and Porzingis would make the leap from rookie sensation to dominant offensive weapon in year two.

That didn't happen. The Knicks offense sputtered. The forced and unsuccessful implementation of the triangle offense was definitely the main culprit to the Knicks' struggles. Rose's 4:2 assist to ratio certainly didn't help matters. Knicks fans can breathe a sigh of relief knowing Knicks general manager and chief decision maker Steve Mills isn't interested in a Rose-Knicks reunion. The Rose experiment didn't pan out and the Knicks front office may realize that a ball dominant guard may not be what the team should go after at this stage of the rebuild. Instead, the team may be better off going after a stop-gap solution until the team's first round draft choice Frank Ntilikina is ready to take the reins of the offense. There are a few options on the market that could interest New York. The team has thus far shown interest in Utah's Shelvin Mack. Mack averaged seven points and two assists in limited minutes with Utah this past season. As far as a fit with New York, there definitely could be a good one. Mack isn't exceptional in any one area but he is a solid defender and finisher at the rim. His defensive plus/minus was league average while his 2-point field goal percentage was over 50 percent this past season. Darren Collison is another option. Collison is a defensive sieve much like Rose. The speedster, however, is a much more efficient offensive weapon. Collison shot over 40 percent from the 3-point line last season with the Kings and has the speed and athleticism to keep opposing defenses on edge. A Collison-led offense would look a lot more modern than the low efficiency attack the Knicks have been using the past few seasons. Coach Jeff Hornacek seems to prefer an up-tempo offense like he had in his couple of seasons with the Phoenix Suns. Collison seems like a good fit in that regard. Finally, there is Rajon Rondo. Rondo has long been linked to the New York Knicks and is once again this offseason after having his 2017-18 salary waived by the Chicago Bulls. Rondo also spent last season bouncing in and out of the Bulls starting lineup and often times fell out of Fred Hoiberg's rotation. After an up and down tenure in Chicago, the former All-Star is now looking for his fifth team in four seasons. Out of any of the aforementioned free agents, Rondo is the most likely to prop up the game of Kristaps Porzingis. For his entire career, the pass-first point guard has been one of the league's top distributors. Rondo has recorded double digit assists five times and has topped the 11 assist plateau four times. Most importantly for New York is that Rondo has been known to be a world class teammate. Even after falling out of the rotation in Chicago this past season, Rondo was known to have stayed with younger teammates after practice and give them tips. His experience and expertise would be invaluable to the growth and development of Ntilinkina. The Knicks are likely to be linked to either Mack, Collison or Rondo. Whether they go for Mack's jack-of-all-trades abilities, Collison's scoring or Rondo's distributing abilities and off-court wisdom, New York is looking for a point guard that develops their two cornerstones in Porzingis and Ntilikina. Whatever they decide, the new point guard won't be much more than a transitional point guard as the team shifts to a long-needed youth movement.

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