After a dismal 2013-14 season, the New York Knicks had one thing in mind entering free agency apart from keeping Carmelo Anthony: upgrading the point guard position.
Raymond Felton started for the team last season and his performance couldn’t have been worse. His inconsistency on the court and legal problems off of it caused for a quick decline in team chemistry and support from the fans. Before free agency even started, new president of basketball Phil Jackson made sure to address this problem by dealing Felton and center Tyson Chandler to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for guards Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington and Shane Larkin and center Samuel Dalembert.
So what’s the picture for the Knicks?
Calderon is going to be the starting PG. The 32-year-old from Spain is a creative and unselfish floor general who likes to make his teammates better by sharing the ball and putting them in a position to score. When needed, Calderon can shoot the ball pretty well, something very important for the triangle offense. He’s got a good body and a great vision to run the offense, even though his defensive performance is something he needs to work on. Being 32 means that he is going to have to rest for a good amount of minutes, and here’s where the two backups come into play.
Pablo Prigioni and Larkin are the point guard backups. They have a very similar style of play in terms of passing and shooting abilities. They are quick and pesky on defense, managing to average a good amount of steals, but neither is a defensive force.
Prigioni is a seasoned and proven PG as a pass-first player who sometimes hesitates too much in shooting the ball even though his three-pointer is as efficient as Melo’s. Given his experience and knowledge of the variants of the triangle system that Europeans use to much, he is probably going to land the backup position. The downside is the fact that he is 37 years old, but as Steve Nash has proven, a pass-first PG who stays in shape can play until he’s 40.
Larkin is young and eager to prove his talent after suffering an injury that took him out of the Mavs’ lineup for four months last season. He was drafted in the first round, so the Knicks might have gotten themselves a good steal on him if he proves he is worth the hype. In Miami, where he played for the Hurricanes in college, he led the team to the ACC Championship and got praises from Dwyane Wade and LeBron James for his speed and scoring abilities. But playing in the NBA is a whole different animal. If he manages to stay focused, learn the system and prove to coach Derek Fisher that he’s got what it takes, Larkin might start seeing more and more time on the court, but for now, Prigioni seems the logical choice for the backup PG position. The fact that Larkin is 5-foot-11 kind of takes away the edge he’s got on Prigioni because of his age.
The Knicks are well served in terms of point guards, especially for the triangle offense, when creativity and ball movement are more important than athleticism and individual skills.