The New York Knicks are in the midst of a surprising turnaround season and are actually hanging around the playoff race in the Eastern Conference.
The resurgence of the franchise can be credited to the emergence of Latvian big man Kristaps Porzingis. His strong play along with a much needed change in Carmelo Anthony’s game, becoming more of a distributor, has the Knicks hovering around .500 and very much alive in the hunt for a post season berth.
The roster is flawed without a doubt, but there is one issue that seems to reign prominent over the rest and that is by far the point-guard position.
The Knicks haven’t had a floor general since the days of Mark Jackson and despite many rumors of one coming via free agency year, but to no fruition.
Charlie Ward, Stephon Maurbury, Chris Duhon, Nate Robinson, Toney Douglas and Raymond Felton have all started at point guard over nearly the past two decades for the Knicks.
This season Jose Calderon has been the starting point guard to start this season and his performance has been underwhelming to say the least. The 10-year NBA veteran is averaging 7.6 points, 4.0 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game.
Calderon has never been a true floor general in his career, but he has been serviceable as a journeyman throughout his career. The 34-year-old has clearly slowed down to this point, which would explain his poor shooting this season. After a recent loss to the San Antonio Spurs in which Calderon missed the game winning shot, the veteran commented on his status in New York.
“I know everybody is going to want me out of New York and stuff like that because I missed that shot,” Calderon said. “But it’s what happens.”
Truthfully, with Carmelo Anthony, Arron Afflalo and Kristaps Porzingis on the court, Calderon shouldn’t need to be a primary scoring option, in contrast the only thing he should do is hit the wide open kick outs.
The issue with Calderon lies on the defensive end of the floor. Calderon plays for lack of a better term, atrocious defense against younger, quicker point guards that are in today’s NBA.
It’s not only him though, point guards have been torching the Knicks for years because of their inability to find a competent perimeter defender.
Throughout yesterday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers, their journeyman point guard Ish Smith seemed unstoppable for portions of the game, finishing with 16 points and 16 assists. He drove the lane with ease and hit runners & layups with ease.
The Knicks ultimately won the game, but it took double overtime to defeat a 76ers team that has won 5-games this entire NBA season.
The issue in and of itself lies within the content of the story. How can the Knicks be the type of team that can come within one shot of defeating the second best team in the NBA in the San Antonio Spurs and in the same stretch need double overtime to defeat the lowly Philadelphia 76ers?
The answers are simple: consistency and defense.
Part of that stems from moving on from Calderon, whether or not that comes from internally via Langston Galloway and Jerian Grant, trading for a starting caliber point guard prior to the trade deadline or waiting for the likes of Mike Conley to hit free agency.
No matter the answer the Knicks need a real floor general and leader, not only to run the offense, but also to keep opposing point guards from breaking down the defense. Just having a better presence on that end could mean the difference between a playoff berth or another off-season with another team making their lottery selection.