The Knicks Guard Quandary

Going into preseason the Knicks were suppose to have stability at the guard spots. During the summer Allan Houston initially slipped out from under the guillotine that bore his name (the “Allan Houston Rule”), which meant another season of uncertainty concerning how much and what role he would play on the team. However his knee had other ideas, and forced Houston to retire before the season started. Isiah Thomas had brought in Quentin Richardson and drafted Nate Robinson which meant the Knicks would have depth and reliability coming into the season. Unfortunately things haven’t turned out as planned.

Quentin Richardson, who was to solidify the shooting guard & small forward spots, has been a disappointment thus far. Injuries kept Richardson from practicing with his new teammates during the preseason, so when the season started he was frequently out of position and was unfamiliar with the plays. So far this season he has yet to surpass his career average in points (12.5) in any game for New York. If matters weren’t bad enough, Friday he left the game after playing only 6 minutes and was a “DNP-Back Spasms” for Sunday’s game. So not only has Quentin’s various maladies kept him from settling into the Knicks’ offense, but now they are keeping him from playing altogether. While Richardson played in 79 games last year, the Knicks might have purchased the 2003-2004 version, where he only averaged 62 games a season.

At the risk of being unpopular, Nate Robinson might be the worst Knick still in Brown’s rotation. Although Robinson is an undersized rookie shooting guard trying to learn the point, he has done little to help his team. While he’s nearly a better rebounder (5.0 REB/40) than Marbury (3.4 REB/40) and Crawford (2.4 REB/40) combined, Nate is shooting a feeble 36.3% (eFG) and fouling opponents at a ridiculous rate for a point guard (6.6 PF/40). Usually a player whose shooting percentage resembles Ty Cobb’s career batting average might try to minimize the damage they are doing to their team by shooting the ball less. Unfortunately for New York, Robinson is doing more jacking than a Rock Star Games convention (19.4 FGA/40 second on the team). Nate’s selfishness is so bad that his usage rate (27.1) is nearly identical to All Star Vince Carter’s (27.2).

When Robinson gets the ball, he streaks into the paint where the defense colapses around him. For most point guards this is an ideal situation, because it means a teammate is open for an easy shot. Unfortunately for Nate he infrequently passes out of the double team, and instead forces up a contested shot. Opponents have caught on to this and send one or two help defenders into the paint, knowing that the Knicks’ guard won’t burn them by passing to the open man. With Brown’s impatience with shoot first point guards and players who foul incessantly, one has to wonder if Robinson would get the same treatment if he were 6’1.

Surprisingly, the only guard to show improvement is the player in which I had the least amount of confidence. Jamal Crawford seems to have retired his patented “off balanced-21 footer-hand in my face” shot. He is attempting less shots (14.4 FGA/40 compared to 16.3 last year) and has become more aggressive pushing the ball towards the hoop. Once his free throw percentage (currently 67%) returns to his career average (83%), he could have the most efficient season of his career. One thing Crawford needs to do better is give the ball up in transition. At least twice this year he has kept it for himself trying to elude defenders with a fancy dribble or a fake pass and go the full length of the court. Jamal needs to give up the rock when the Knicks have the numbers in the open court.

Even the Knicks best guard has been wildly inconsistent. Stephon Marbury had point totals of 10, 4, and 9 until erupting for 27 on Sunday against his cousin. Unfortunately for New York, they don’t face any more point guards from the Marbury family tree. Until that game, he seemed content to hang out on the perimeter and feed the ball to everyone else. Stephon’s main weapon is attacking the basket with a strong ability to finish or find the open man. Whether it is due to Larry Brown being overly restrictive or Marbury taking his instructions to an extreme, having him handcuffed to the three point line is not the best way to utilize his talents.

The other day Marbury took a lot of slack from the media & the fans for requesting to move to the shooting guard position. It doesn’t make sense that Robinson’s leash is long enough that he can take any shot he pleases, and Crawford is encouraged to make his way into the paint. Stephon is superior to his teammates in both passing and scoring from inside. The Knicks could help their last place offense and add stability to their backcourt by letting Marbury return to the form that made him one of the better offensive point guards in the league.

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Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).

12 thoughts to “The Knicks Guard Quandary”

  1. Good synopsis.

    As far as Nate goes, his early performance surely doesn’t justify the hype. For all the analysis we can do, he just doesn’t seem that good (yet). You summarize his selfish tendencies well, but he also seems to miss one fairly open lay up per game and front-rims another open jumper. If you start, so to speak, 0 for 2, you’ve got an uphill struggle to finish with a decent shooting %. I like his energy and potential, but the kid is raw.

    JC, I agree, has been a pleasant surprise which I attribute to 2 things. (1) He strikes me as genuinely willing to learn and hungry to improve. Matched with a coach who focuses on the right things, and that’s just what’s happening. (2) He might be better suited as a bench player. So far it seems to force him to rein in the chucking mentality for fear of losing more minutes but it doesn’t reduce the confidence inherent in every chucker. As a result, he can come in cold, shoot effectively but generally good shots.

  2. What do you think of the possibility of a Davis/Rose/Taylor for E. Watson deal? It seems like an improvement, although it would probably piss off Marbury.

    Actually pissing off Marbury is probably a bad idea, so forget it.

  3. Don’t rush to judgement of Robinson. It’s early in the season, he’s a rookie, and the hype was incredible. I think he’s just adjusting to the NBA game. He’ll catch on soon enough.

  4. I?m not sure why getting a PG would piss off Marbury when he went to the coach asking to move off the ball? This season alone Marbury bought the rookies 10 new suits each, donated a ton of money to Katrina survivors, and seems to be trying very hard to adjust his game to Larry Brown’s style. But, yeah, he’s a really terrible, selfish person because the media says so.

    Watson is a solid back-up, but I’m not sure Denver would be compelled to move him for Rose. (I don’t think Taylor or Davis would work straight up under the CBA.)

  5. I think if we got Earl Watson he’d function mainly as a back-up point guard anyway or at most a starter with limited minutes. Whilst there seems to be a cry for the Knicks to go out and trade for him, its worth remembering that his strength is not really playmaking anyway and he is primarily a solid, defensive point. Last night definitely did show we need some cover at the point, no doubt about it.

  6. On Crawford…

    One thing I have noticed in a handful of games I have seen where he has played well is that when Crawford plays SG Brown has him coming off screens. That is, Brown is using him more like Richard Hamilton – a move brilliant for its subtlety. It’s the best way to get Crawford high percentage shots without having him overuse the dribble, which he is prone to do. What surprised me is how adept Crawford is at using screens to get good shots. That’s something we rarely saw last season.

    Unfortunately, in the last 3-4 games Crawford has had to log more minutes at the point because Robinson has played so poorly. I would love to see the Knicks maybe pick up Darrell Armstrong to play on the 2nd unit. I’d still leave Marbury as the first team point, cut Robinson out of the rotation for right now, and allow both Crawford and Marbury to play some SG.

  7. One under the radar guy I wouldn’t mind seeing the Knicks get might be Mateen Cleaves. He’s the prototypical LB PG: strong defender who can’t shoot. He has a higher assist rate and lower turnover rate than any Knick.

    Another strong defensive PG who might be a good, cheap free agent target this offseason is Marcus Banks.

  8. I think the Knicks should trade Davis back to Chicago for Tim Thomas. Their contracts are almost identical and are both expiring. It would be preferable to deal Hardaway maybe, but I don’t think the Bulls would do it. I know Thomas is pretty ordinary, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have a proper SF, and I think he’d do more good than Davis as we have no depth at all at the 3. TT would be a decent fit at the 3. It makes sense, why not try?

  9. Alas, it simply ain’t allowed to trade Davis back for Thomas, according at least to the Chicago G.M….

    Plus, if the idea is to give young guys more and more minutes, why bring back Thomas? Davis could see less and less minutes as the season progresses if Lee shows continued growth (and when Curry comes back, Frye will still need minutes) and still act as a veteran presence. Thomas, as we see in Chicago, has no interest in being a veteran presence. He would not be happy giving minutes up to Ariza, and I wouldn’t be happy seeing Ariza on the bench for Tim Thomas.

    Maybe we should bring back Charles Smith next!

  10. My bad, he can’t be swapped back for Davis. Still, it wouldn’t be a bad move I say to bring him back. His minutes aren’t really going to affect Lee or Frye, and whilst I like Ariza, he can’t score. TT has size, can hit the 3 and is athletic. I think even as Ariza develops, there is a hole at SF, so whilst Penny is only going to stink up the bench, why not swap him? Not much to lose really, TT can still be ditched at the end of the season. Plus the coach likes him, even if TT said their relationship got “real shady” towards the end in Philly.

  11. Trading for Tim Thomas is like wanting Vin Baker back or Moochie Norris. He’s a throwaway guy that the team doesn’t need.

  12. While Thomas has a lot more on-court ability at this point than either Baker or Norris, I still think with the Knicks oft going to a 3-guard offense and Ariza developing, that both Davis and Rose are better, steadying influences than Thomas would be, and certainly would be more likely to play 10-15 minutes a game w/o sulking. The team is playing much better lately, despite always falling behind in the first half, and I’d rather Brown figure out the guys he already has than bring in more projects (and Thomas still is one) that will have him starting all over. Say what you want about Brown, it seems to me that if you don’t play hard, you don’t get minutes, and already I see a difference in the guys on the court from last season, even if the results aren’t always pretty.

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