With the selection of Iman Shumpert the Knicks have cast some doubt on the future of their resident backup point guard and perimeter stopper, Toney Douglas. Despite two solid seasons in which he showed future starter potential, Douglas has been maligned for the dubious and rather burdensome reputation of “he’s just not a point guard.” Assist and turnover numbers be damned; Toney jacks up the occasional 28-footer, therefore he’s just not a point guard. Never mind that Chauncey Billups does the exact same thing, and often not as well.
Ok, sarcasm out of the way; let’s get to the facts. I’ve already written here that Douglas is an undervalued commodity and likely worth more to us than he would be to anyone else. (Ditto Landry Fields, by the way.) So far the Toney Douglas rumor mill appears to back up that sentiment: the most substantive deal we’ve heard is TD straight up for Jonny Flynn, whom the Wolves have since moved to the Rockets. Flynn was drafted 23 spots ahead of Toney, but each of his two seasons has been worse than either of Douglas’ years. Flynn has been stifled somewhat as a point guard in the triangle offense – and I do believe that significantly affected his production – but at this point he isn’t the caliber of player that should compel the Knicks to dump a talent like Douglas.
The deal makes more sense, of course, when you consider that Douglas’ league-wide reputation is that of a shoot-first combo guard. Which he may be, in part, but that glosses over what Douglas actually achieved on the court. From my Knicks A-Z post on Toney back in May:
"After his arrival in February, Chauncey Billups posted [an assist to turnover] ratio of 116/48; in that same period, Douglas’ was 127/34. In roughly 100 more minutes played (remember, Billups missed six games due to injury and sat out the final game of the year), Douglas turned the ball over 34 times to Chauncey’s 48. And you can’t say he wasn’t distributing, either; the numbers aren’t lying."
Douglas also outperformed Billups in three-point shooting, which leads me to believe that the difference between them as shooters is that some of Toney’s bad shots actually go in. And that’s to say nothing of their relative abilities on defense, or that Douglas played most of the season with a torn labrum that affected his shooting and penetration ability, and from which he’ll likely be recovered by October. Does this sound like a player who can’t land someone better than Jonny Flynn? Hell, if the Rockets offered the Knicks Jonny Flynn straight up for Chauncey Billups (assuming that worked under the cap for the sake of argument), you’d turn up your nose, right? Then why consider shipping Toney?
I suspect the Knicks understand that there probably isn’t a palatable deal to be had for Douglas and are prepared to move forward with their four guards (Billups, Fields, Douglas, Shumpert/Bill Walker) and hope that Josh Harrellson and a cheap free agent big or non-roster invitee can provide enough toughness to keep the Knicks from getting demolished in the paint. Fields would also appear safe: I don’t think anyone is giving up an asset for the guy who no-showed the playoffs and may just have been a fluke.
Billups and Shumpert, on the other hand, may need to pack their bags. Billups’ impending departure almost feels like a foregone conclusion: his contract expires at the end of next season and would be required for any deal to land another marquee star, and I can’t envision the Knicks’ resigning him next summer. As for Shumpert, he may the one Knicks guard (next to Billups, possibly) that another team likes even more than the Knicks do. We heard reports of a Steve Nash trade heating up around draft time, and the Suns apparently love Shumpert and even considered drafting him at number 13. If that trade ever went down, you’d have to both players would likely be on their way to Phoenix.
On the surface it didn’t look good for Toney on draft night, with the Knicks’ drafting a bigger, stronger, more athletic guy with similar skills. But a look at the external factors at hand tells me Douglas ought to be safe for now. Unfortunately I think the real question becomes: Whither Bill Walker?