Should the Knicks Use Robin Lopez to Acquire Guard Help?


Robin Lopez  was one of New York’s biggest acquisitions this past summer, signing a four-year deal worth $54 million to anchor New York’s defense for the foreseeable future. During that period, the Knicks were looking for any NBA players to join their starting lineup after a 19-win season and came away with adding Lopez, Arron Afflalo, Kyle O’Quinn, and Kevin Seraphin in their offseason haul, as they looked to make year two of the Jackson-Fisher era more successful than season one. 

So far, so good for the Knicks. The Knicks are 14-15 on the season, New York’s defense has jumped from the bottom of the barrel to the middle of the pack at 15th in the league in defensive efficiency.

Carmelo Anthony’s return from injury helped the offense, Kristaps Porzingis surprising start gives the Knicks a future centerpiece and Afflalo’s stability at the shooting guard position has all played a part in New York’s rise to  playoff contention. However, the most unheralded player has been Lopez and his ability to be a solid option in the middle of the lineup. 

Nov 23, 2015; Miami, FL, USA; New York Knicks center Robin Lopez (8) looks to pass the ball against the Miami Heat during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

So far this season, Lopez is averaging 11.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.6 blocks and a .511 TS%. He’s allowing a defensive field goal percentage of 48.2% on the season, 5.8 percent below average and the Knicks have a 51.8% rebound rate with him on the floor, second on the team, trailing only Porzingis.

However, things have changed since the Knicks signed Lopez. Namely, the emergence of Porzingis has changed the trajectory of the Knicks. Not only can he shoot the basketball, but Porzingis has shown the ability to rebound, block shots and be an overall force for the Knicks around the rim, so much so, that the Knicks will have to consider a way to get more minutes at the center position.

In short, you don’t need Lopez at his contract total, while having Porzingis on a rookie contract.

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Last week, it was rumored that the Knicks were looking for backcourt help. It makes sense. The Knicks have used Sasha Vujacic, Jerian Grant has hit the rookie wall and Langston Galloway is in the midst of a sophomore slump. Afflalo has played well since he returned from injury and  Jose Calderon is upgradable. New York could use another solid piece in the backcourt. The need for an additional guard – one that can attack the rim and create space for shooters – should be high on the list both now and for free agency.  

As of right now, the Knicks have no one on the team who averages over 4.0 drives per game. Part of it is the personnel, as the Knicks didn’t have anyone to fill that role before Alexey Shved did late in the year, but the best driver – in terms of field goal percentage – on the team is currently Jose Calderon, who averages a mere 1.5 drives per game, via’s stats. The player who drives the most is Jerian Grant, who averages 3.7 per game.

Having someone who can slash through the opposing defense opens up a whole new aspect of the offense as the Knicks have six players who are shooting at least 40% on catch and shoot shots. Porzingis is shooting an even 50.0% on plays when he’s the roll man in the pick-and-roll. Those two assets would be excellent for a guard who can run the offense, slash through the paint and kick and drive to their available players.

And Lopez does have value, as teams need a rim protector. Lopez is a player who can stabilize a team’s interior defense, he can create rebounds for his teammates, he’s pretty young in age (27) and minutes (10513) and as the cap jumps, Lopez’s $13.5 million cap hit for 2016 seems more and more like a bargain for a player of his services.

So could New York make a move to acquire the guard they need and hold on with Lopez? Well, yes and no.

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The Knicks have a depth in the frontcourt. Carmelo Anthony has played more and more minutes at the power forward position as the season continued and in a potential Lopez move, Porzingis would move to the center position. Behind them, are Lance Thomas, Derrick Williams, Seraphin and Kyle O’Quinn – each of them bringing different skills to the table.

However, there’s no ideal trade out there for the Knicks at the moment. The top drivers, in terms of drive attempts on at least five attempts per game, are Eric Bledsoe, Reggie Jackson, DeMar DeRozan, Isaiah Thomas and Tyreke Evans. None of them seem available and none of these teams look to need a rim protector at the time. Some of the options the Knicks passed on in free agency – Jeremy Lin, Cory Joseph, and Rajon Rondo – aren’t available either.

If the Knicks can find a potential slasher at either guard position, the Knicks should pull the trigger, but entering next offseason with Lopez at on a three-year, $42 million deal as a potential trade.