As we head into the new year, the New York Knicks (15-18), sit four games behind the 8th seed Miami Heat and to the surprise of many, hanging around the playoff picture. Though there is plenty of basketball to be played, the Knicks are only two wins away from tying their 2014-15 win total of an abysmal 17 wins. That being said, the Knicks are still not serious playoff contenders at three games under .500.
If you look at the Knicks frontcourt, they have had some solid production from the exciting rookie Kristaps Porzingis, who is sixth in the league in blocks per game (2.03), and the free-agent signing Robin Lopez, who is finally starting to find his groove, holding the dominant Andre Drummond to only his 5th contest without a double-double Tuesday. Not to forget the team leader, Carmelo Anthony, who is always among the league leaders in points per game. Role players like Derrick Williams and Kyle O’Quinn have also given quality minutes off the bench and have been exceeding expectations. The real problem with why the Knicks are fighting for an even record is because of poor backcourt play with an absence of a capable starting point guard
The Knicks’ have received lack of production from starter, Jose Calderon this season. Among all point guards, Calderon ranks 50th in points per game (7.2) and 33rd in assists per game (3.8) and frankly, that just isn’t cutting it. Not to mention he is the only point guard that has more than a full season of experience on the team with rookie Jerian Grant and second year man Langston Galloway coming off the bench. The two young point guards are not ready to be starters in this league just yet and with Jose Calderon’s sub-par numbers, the Knicks find themselves in a uncomfortable situation. It is time for Phil Jackson to go out and get New York a point guard.
The Knicks’ situation is tricky because the team does not have much trade bait, including no picks in the upcoming draft. Two players which could make sense for New York include the Detroit Pistons’ Brandon Jennings, and the Houston Rockets’ Ty Lawson.
The Knicks are actually rumored to be interested in point guard Brandon Jennings as he has recently returned from a left achilles injury which sidelined him 11-months. Yes, that seems like big risk to take, but without the uncertainty, the Knicks would not have a shot at acquiring him. Add on the fact Detroit is all in on Reggie Jackson, who is signed through 2020 and is boasting career-high numbers, making a move for Jennings may not only make sense for New York, but be a possibility. Depending on who the the Knicks would have to part with to land the 26-year-old, taking the risk on Jennings may be worth it.
Jennings has been a productive starter in the past and still likely is more capable of a starter than the Knicks’ trio of point guards. He is also on the last year of his contract and would not interfere with New York’s’ offseason plans. Knicks needs a point guard that can shoulder some of the scoring burden from Melo and Afflalo and effectively attack the basket; Jennings certainly seems like a plausible candidate capable of fitting the bill.
After the Rockets went out and got Ty Lawson from the Denver Nuggets this past offseason, it has not been a smooth transition in Houston for the explosive guard. He is posting a career-low 6.5 PPG while shooting a shockingly low 36.4% from the field. With Harden being such a focal point in the offense, it clearly seems to be taking away from the 27-year-old point guard as it has been reported that the team is looking to move him.
Even with Lawson posting worse numbers than Knicks’ starter Jose Calderon, a change in scenery could do him well, as over the past two seasons, he has averaged over 15 PPG and 8 APG. Calderon may also be a possible fit in Houston as he is more of a knock down three point shooter and could be better utilized off the bench for the Rockets. Though it will almost certainly take more than just Calderon to potentially make a deal happen, the Knicks should consider giving the 7th-year veteran a look. Add on the fact he is also on his last year of his contract, like Jennings, the Knicks don’t have to worry about him complicating offseason plans.
The Knicks find themselves struggling to escape mediocracy, and with the backcourt they have now, it would be more than difficult to make the playoffs. Even with the triangle system not putting a major focus on a playmaking point, the league has changed over the years, making the 1 spot more and more important.
If they can go out and improve their point guard situation, expect the Knicks to make a serious run at the playoffs. Even if Jackson may have his eyes set on 2016 and beyond, there still is a window of opportunity for New York this year.