Just about every season preview begins with a wrap-up of the last year. I’m going to assume that if you’re here reading this, you don’t really need a review of last year. In fact, if you’re a Knick fan, you probably don’t want to review any recent history. So with that said let’s continue with what we might expect this year.
For 2009, the guard position should be the Knicks deepest. Duhon and Crawford will start, at least for now, while Marbury, Robinson, and Collins will provide ample depth. Even though D’Antoni says he likes to keep the rotation short, I envision a scenario where the top 4 will see a lot of playing time. In fact it’s entirely possible that all 5 will be in the rotation. Between D’Antoni’s predilection for going small and the fast pace the Knicks will play, it makes sense that they’ll need as many guards as possible.
Newly acquired Chris Duhon will supplement Marbury as the starting point guard this year. In Chicago Duhon was below average offensively but was an able defender in the backcourt, something the Knicks have been sorely lacking. He’s a capable long range shooter (35.6% 3P%), but is a poor finisher around the hoop. According to 82games Duhon had 24% of his “close” shots blocked, nearly double that of Stephon Marbury (13%). Think of Duhon as the NBA’s version of the game managing QB (Trent Dilfer). He’ll run the offense, take the open three, play half decent defense, but not score many points.
Some people mocked New York for giving Duhon an $11M dollar deal, including a few of Duhon’s former fans. The good news is that the deal is only 2 years, so the Knicks are looking at him as only a stopgap fix at point guard. New York isn’t going to contend for much over the length of his contract. The Duhon’s deal is a far cry from the 5 year (Jeffries & James) and 6 year (Curry & Crawford) contracts that were handed out by Isiah Thomas.
Jamal Crawford remains the incumbent at the shooting guard position. Many Knick fans still have hope that Jamal will shed his poor shot decision making ways and become a more efficient player. Under D’Antoni’s seven second offense, many assume that Crawford would blossom into a more efficient scorer. ESPN’s Daily Dime called Crawford the Knicks sleeper pick for fantasy basketball.
However it hasn’t turned out that way in preseason (TS%: 51.6, eFG%: 45.2, through 6 games), and Crawford may not flourish in this offense. Jamal’s strength is being able to create his own shot in the half court set, but D’Antoni’s offense uses movement to make shots for everyone, hence it diminishes Jamal’s contribution. Crawford, much like Zach Randolph, likes to hold ball and dictate the offense, and he has never been a great catch & shoot guy. His best season occurred under Larry Brown where he took 21% of his attempts from “inside” as opposed to only 14% last year.
Time will tell if Jamal will progress under D’Antoni, or if he’ll be the same frustrating off-balance shot taking player he’s been for the last 8 years. Considering the Knick coach doesn’t need his skill set on offense, and will expect more from Jamal on defense than the previous Knick coaches it’s possible that Crawford will see a reduction in minutes this year. Certainly Crawford isn’t likely to average the 39.9 minutes per game he played last year, and that will hurt his per game averages.