Mar 3, 2014; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; New York Knicks point guard Raymond Felton (2) reacts after making a three point shot in the third quarter against the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Detroit won 96-85. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

New York Knicks: The Need for a Better Point Guard

Apr 6, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; New York Knicks guard Raymond Felton (2) and Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers (15) both chase a loose ball during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks are in a strange sort of holding period this coming season. Sure, this summer will be monumental as they try to negotiate with Carmelo Anthony‘s free agency and signing a new head coach, but the massive contracts of Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler, and Andrea Bargnani will leave the Knicks strapped for cash.

The summer of 2015 will be the Knicks’ big chance to reconstruct their roster as they’ll have plenty of cap space, free from the above-mentioned contracts. However, in the meantime, the Knicks will still look to bolster their roster somehow. Recall that they’ve been inflexible the last two summers, yet still managed to bring in new pieces to their team.

Though Phil Jackson will surely navigate the waters carefully, trying to preserve space for 2015, one of the Knicks’ top focuses should be trying to improve their back-court, particularly at point guard.

Jackson has hinted that the Knicks will be moving forward with installing a triangle offense in New York — a system that doesn’t necessarily require great point guard play — but nonetheless, the Knicks need to improve that position.

Raymond Felton just struggled through the worst season of his career (even worse than a ghastly stint in Portland that made a whole city hate him). Felton’s scoring averaging (9.7 ppg) was the worst of his career as was his 47.6 TS%, while his assist average (5.6 apg) was the second worst of his career. Combined with injury issues, huge defensive lapses, and off-court struggles, it was an entirely forgettable season for Ray, who it’s easy to forget, was solid for New York the year before.

Jan 28, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks point guard Pablo Prigioni (9) pulls up for a shot against the Boston Celtics during the second half at Madison Square Garden. The New York Knicks won the game 114-88. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

However, even Pablo Prigioni saw a decrease in his production. His per-game stats and shooting percentages were all up, but his advanced stats didn’t reflect the same impact he had in 2012-13. Prigioni was still one of the leaders on the Knicks in net rating — 1.7 — but it was significantly less than the season before. In 2012-13, Prigioni’s 8.0 net rating was the best of any Knick who played all season long. His 100.9 defensive rating was also the best of any Knick receiving regular playing time throughout the season. This year, Prigioni still did well, but in long minutes, his age and lack of athleticism was exposed by quick point guards and quick defenses.

A quick look at ESPN’s NBA depth chart shows the level of talent at the point guard position. With the exceptions of Kendall Marshall (Los Angeles Lakers) and Austin Rivers (New Orleans Pelicans), just about every team has a better starting point guard than the Knicks. (And it’s worth noting that Marshall and Rivers were filling in for Steve Nash and Jrue Holiday‘s injuries, respectively). In a guard-driven league, the Knicks need to improve their talent at the position.

However, as mentioned, New York is in a tricky position. They have little in the way of assets to offer a team in a trade, and their biggest free agency weapon is the mini-MLE worth $3.2 million. Jackson and the Knicks would need to be crafty in their negotiating, but there are some potentially good, cheap point guards that could be available if the Knicks can keep the price tag and year-length low. Players like Devin Harris, Steve Blake, Darren Collison, and Ramon Sessions could all be free agents and might not fetch that high of a contract.

Although the triangle offense doesn’t emphasize three-pointers as much, given the Knicks’ current construction and the knowledge of efficient offenses in today’s NBA, the Knicks may try to blend the triangle with the spread pick-and-roll attack. This requires high I.Q. players and, of course, solid three-point shooting. In some cases, this could eliminate potential candidates. Felton, for instance, is a solid pick-and-roll point guard and generally good in the open floor, but he’s not a consistent enough three-point shooter to punish defenses.

Though he and Prigioni could both serve fine roles off the bench, the Knicks ought to target a point guard with better range and better defense.

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Tags: 2014 NBA Free Agency New York Knicks Pablo Prigioni Raymond Felton

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