The NBA is a point guard driven league and the New York Knicks are learning that first hand night in and night out. The Knicks point guard dilemma is reaching a crucial crossroads in the season. They can choose to start and continue to give the majority of minutes to an under performing veteran or finally hand over the keys to the wet behind the ears rookie. New York started off the 2015-16 season with a record of 22-22. They were in ninth place in the eastern conference battling for a playoff spot. Since then they have lost twelve of their last fourteen game and are now sitting in the twelfth spot six and a half games out of the playoffs. A lot of the Knicks issues during this stretch have been centered around the point guard position.
Jose Calderon has started the most games at point guard this season for New York. Out of the 58 games that the team has played he has started 54 of them. He missed four games due to injury. Of the games that he did play, Calderon ended up scoring less then ten points in 39 of them. In 30 of those games he finished with less then five assists. There has actually been 22 times where both of these have happened in the same game. The eleven year veteran is averaging 7.3 points per game this season which is the lowest since his rookie year. His 4.0 assists in 27.5 minutes per game is a career low. He has had as many or more turnovers then assists in eleven games this year.
As bad as his offense has been, it has been his defense that has been the biggest determent to the Knicks. Opposing point guards seem to be putting up career numbers almost every night against the 34 year old Spaniard. Most recently on Monday night New York hosted the Toronto Raptors. Kyle Lowry finished with 22 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists. This was his first triple double of the season. Another example was the last game before the all-star break against the Washington Wizards. John Wall was unstoppable. He finished with 28 points, 17 assists, and five rebounds. On February 7th the Denver Nuggets two point guards combined for 34 points, 14 assists, and 15 rebounds. They were able to drive and get to the rim at will. Boston Celtics all-star Isaiah Thomas carved up the Knicks at the beginning of the month tallying up 20 points and eight assists in the game. All these games resulted in a New York loss and this was just the month of February. Examples like this can be shown throughout the entire season.
All the blame cannot be placed on Calderon. Langston Galloway is currently the backup and receiving a good amount of playing time averaging 25.1 minutes per game. Galloway has not done anything to separate himself to deserve becoming the starter. His offensive numbers are not any better at 7.9 points, 2.3 assists, and 3.7 rebounds per game. Neither of these guys have been able to stay in front of their man on defense. This leads to “and ones” on ticky tack fouls trying to recover and the big men like Robin Lopez and Kristaps Porzingis getting into foul trouble. It is obvious at this point what they are getting with Calderon and Galloway. Maybe now is the time for the team to see what they have with the first round pick that they acquired in a draft day trade with the Atlanta Hawks.
Jerian Grant is a 6’4 195 pound rookie out of the University of Notre Dame. He graduated college before entering the NBA. This provided him with the kind of experience most other rookies do not have when they get to the league. New York has taken a cautious approach to Grant’s playing time. On the season he has five games that he did not participate in due to he coach’s decision. In eight games of the 53 that he has played in, he logged less then eight minutes. He is averaging 1.6 free throw attempts per game which is more then Calderon and Galloway while only getting 15.7 minutes per game. This shows how aggressive Grant can be. This is something the Knicks need to set up easier baskets. He is also the better defender of the three. He is faster then Calderon and bigger then Galloway. These are qualities that provide him the ability to stay in front of his man and fight through screens. Opponents have a minus four offensive rating when Grant is on the court. The Knicks are plus four in turnover percentage when he is in the game.
Going back to Monday’s game, Calderon and Galloway combined for zero points on 0-5 shooting, three assists, one rebound, and two turnovers in 44 minutes. Grant on the other hand had nine points on three of five shooting. He also had four assists and one turnover in only twelve mi lutes. Whether the plan is to make the playoffs or build for the future, it is time to end the Knicks point guard dilemma and let Jerian Grant start driving the car.
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