With the Knicks 2011 season almost upon us, it’s time to analyze the roster. Usually teams have some stability from one year to the next, but New York has only a third of the players returning. How New York is going to perform is more of a mystery than previous years. This year’s I’ll look at each position and attempt to address the critical question for those players.
Shooting Guards: Who will be the starter?
It’s hard to believe, but the longest tenured Knick after Eddy Curry is Wilson Chandler. Over the past few seasons Chandler has been the starting shooting guard due to a lack of alternatives. Offensively he’s miscast at the two because of his hurtful three point shooting (30.8% career) and his inability to get to the free throw line (0.15 ftm/fga). Both of these make him less than a perfect fit in D’Antoni’s offense. Defensively he’s about average; at times his length is helpful, other times his lack of speed is a liability.
The time for Chandler, who stands at 6-8 and 220lbs, masquerading as a two could come to an end this season. There’s been talk of D’Antoni using him at forward more, and he started at PF when Amar’e sat out a preseason game. But more importantly is that Donnie Walsh brought in numerous shooting guards in an attempt to shore up the position. At the top of the list is Kelenna Azubuike. In fact if it weren’t for his injury, it’s likely that he would already be the starter. Career-wise compared to Chandler, Azubuike is a better three point shooter (40.9% to 30.8% 3p%) and slasher (3.4 to 2.7 fta/36). Unfortunately his inability to participate in preseason along with his murky timetable for return (Dr. D’Antoni says Christmas, while Dr. Azubuike says Thanksgiving) means that the Knicks will have to look elsewhere to find an opening day starter.
If Chandler is moved to forward, and Azubuike isn’t healthy, then Bill Walker is probably next on the depth chart. I’ve talked in the past about Walker’s incredible efficiency:
Walker doesn’t average a lot of points (15.4 pts/36 in 2010), but his efficiency (64.9% ts%, 62.5% efg%) is through the roof for a small forward. Only 10 players 6-6 or shorter had a true shooting percentage of 60% or better last year, and no one other than Walker was north of 62%. According to HoopData, Walker attempts the bulk of his shots from behind the arc (50%) or at the rim (33.2%); he doesn’t take a lot of shots in between those areas. So far his career NBA three point shooting percentage is a sizzling 42.7%. Walker relies on his hops to take the action to the cup, including converting a fair share of alley-oops. He moves better without the ball, and doesn’t cough it up much (his turnovers per 36 minutes were a minuscule 1.3).
However his deficiencies (rebounding, defense, and passing) just scream bench player. And the same could be said of Roger Mason. Primarily a three point specialist, Mason does a tiny bit of everything. Emphasis on the word tiny. From the numbers alone it seems he lacks the athleticism (rebounding, free throws, steals, etc.) to be effective. Mason can play the point in small stretches, and he might find some minutes there as well.
Like the point guard position, there’s a spot here for a rookie with a steep climb up the depth chart. Landry Fields has been as impressive as one can get for an unheralded second round pick. At the risk of using a cliche Fields is a “glue guy” or a “heady player.” In other words he doesn’t score a heck of a lot, but does it efficiently and has a well rounded game. More specifically through 5 preseason games he’s averaging 14.5 pts/36 on a sizzling TS% of 66.4%, in addition to 6.1 reb/36. If those numbers are any indication of his true level of play, he’d be a better choice than either Walker or Mason.
In short, I can sum up the Knicks shooting guard starter through a logic statement.
Who will start the most games for the Knicks at SG this year?
- Wilson Chandler (38%, 136 Votes)
- Kelenna Azubuike (28%, 100 Votes)
- Toney Douglas (17%, 61 Votes)
- Landry Fields (11%, 39 Votes)
- Bill Walker (4%, 16 Votes)
- Roger Mason (2%, 6 Votes)
Total Voters: 358