The New York Knicks have one point guard in the top-50 of the NBA‘s player efficiency rating — Beno Udrih — and he is ranked 50th with a 12.57. If you’re unaware, Udrih is the third-string PG on the Knicks roster and has failed to log a single minute in 11 of the team’s last 15 games.
The Knicks’ other point guards, Pablo Prigioni and Raymond Felton, are ranked 51st and 53rd in this statistic with a 12.52 and a 12.04 rating, respectively. Felton and Prigioni have each played in 33 of the Knicks’ 49 games while Udrih has played in 31, so they’ve all logged similar time to amass their anemic stats on the season.
Is there a solution for the Knicks? Felton shows glimpses of being the attacking and fearless point guard that helped him earn high praise with Knicks fans during his first stint in orange and blue in 2010 when he and Amar’e Stoudemire took Madison Square Garden by storm before Carmelo Anthony came to town. But he has been injured and visibly out of shape all season, looking more like the Portland Trail Blazers point guard of 2011-12 who was expedited out of town. He is averaging career-lows in points per game (10.4), steals (1.0), free-throw percentage (.684) and is near his career-lows in assists with 5.6 assists per game (5.5 is his worst). Additionally, he has a 40.1 field-goal percentage and 29.6 percent from long range.
Clearly, Felton isn’t up for the task. Prigioni isn’t capable of logging starters’ minutes and Udrih has already requested a trade. The three combined are responsible for the second-slowest offense in the league, one that averages 92.6 possessions per 48 minutes. So the solution at point guard must come from outside the organization.
The Knicks need to make a trade before the trade deadline on Feb. 20 to significantly upgrade at point. Any incoming point guard would need to be good enough to demand the ball from Anthony. Otherwise the Knicks’ fourth quarter approach will continue to be centered around isolation plays for Anthony which has been one of the team’s biggest problems all season long.
One team the Knicks may want to approach is the Oklahoma City Thunder. OKC’s star point guard, Russell Westbrook, has been sidelined with an injury for most of this season and has been replaced in the starting lineup by 23-year-old super-sub Reggie Jackson. There have been talks about the Knicks trying to pry Westbrook from the Thunder, who is set to return sometime after the All-Star break, but you have to believe Thunder GM Sam Presti wouldn’t trade another star-caliber player after shipping James Harden to the Houston Rockets two offseasons ago. But the Knicks might have a chance at landing Jackson.
The Thunder need a stronger presence than Kendrick Perkins, who was recently relegated to a bench role, down low to match up better against Western Conference powerhouses such as the San Antonio Spurs, Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Clippers. The Knicks would have to relinquish their defensive anchor, Tyson Chandler, in order to interest the Thunder. On top of that, Iman Shumpert and Udrih would need to be included with the Thunder sending Perkins and Jackson to the Knicks.
Jackson is currently boasting a 15.65 PER with 13.5 points and 4.2 assists per game. The numbers don’t blow you away, but he’d actually be the Knicks’ second-highest scorer. But more important than that, he would instantly become a Woodson favorite as well as a fan favorite. Anthony would have to allow him to be the main ball-handler in the fourth quarter, and that would change a lot for the Knicks.
A big-name point guard Anthony likely desires is not available. But Jackson has proven he is capable of winning coaches, fans and teammates over when given the chance. Winning over Anthony in New York could be all the Knicks need to right their quickly sinking ship.