New York Knicks: Ron Baker’s surprise start keeps point guard spot in flux

New York Knicks Ron Baker (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
New York Knicks Ron Baker (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /

Ron Baker was named a starter for the New York Knicks’ preseason finale, and it’s an indication of the uncertainty at point guard.

The New York Knicks entered training camp with a battle at point guard, conceivably between Trey Burke, Frank Ntilikina and Emmanual Mudiay. Each have started at least one preseason game, with Burke as the only player with two.

So it makes head coach David Fizdale’s decision to implement Ron Baker—as noted by Chris Iseman of—into the lineup for Friday’s preseason finale an interesting case.

Baker has not played meaningful minutes often in the preseason; mostly entering in the third or fourth quarter when the teams clear out their benches. However, in each opportunity, the Wichita State product impressed with his grit and defensive tenacity and grabbed Fizdale’s attention.

"“I just want him to keep doing what he’s been doing. He doesn’t have to change one thing. His minutes have been fantastic finishing the games for us. He’s done a great job of organizing for us. His defense is second to none,” Fizdale said. “So I’m going to be fair to all of these guys that are putting forth the time and the effort and I feel like he deserves an opportunity to be seen in that spot.”"

Baker’s stat line won’t say much about his on-court presence, with 3.0 points and 1.0 assists in 10.6 minutes per game. He only takes 1.2 shot attempts per game, as well. No basic stat checks for hustle, grit or diving for loose basketballs across the court and losing a prescription contact lens.

It’s an opportunity for Baker to shine in the point guard role, given the struggles of Burke and Mudiay, and the plan for Ntilikina to showcase defensive versatility against the Brooklyn Nets.

Could this position battle enter the regular season then? Fizdale previously said, he would announce the starting lineup for the Oct. 17 opener after the final preseason game, but it never set a group of five in stone.

This potentially leaves a game-by-game basis for evaluation of the main distributor position. Maybe not the ideal situation, but after 34.4 percent shooting from Burke on 8.0 points and 1.5 steals and Mudiay’s 15 percent shooting on 2.0 points and 4.0 assists per game, it’s not enough to grant either player a stronghold on a spot in the starting lineup.

Baker might not be the answer, either, but in a meaningless game by record, he has the chance to make noise for an increased role off the bench, at worst. For a player that missed most of 2017-18 with a shoulder injury and could have sat on the roster bubble, it’s a positive development.

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What if the 25-year-old guard does enough to start a regular season game? Especially if Fizdale wants Ntilikina in a role off the ball, and without confidence in the other incumbents, it can be a career-changing night, or at least the first step towards one.