Breaking Down the Differences Between NY Knicks' Point Guard Options
It was once a huge weakness for the New York Knicks, but with some savvy offseason moves the point guard position has finally been upgraded.
After letting go of Jeremy Lin, the Knicks brought in the veteran trio of Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni, and all three moves have paid off big time.
We are seeing much more fluid ball movement from the Knicks, and it can all be traced back to the play of their new point guards.
That said, the offense does look different depending on who exactly is running the show, so let's compare how the Knicks look with each point guard:
As the youngest of the three point guards, and the fastest, Raymond Felton is the clear front-runner when it comes to penetrating and dishing.
Getting to the basket has always been one of Felton's key traits, and he has continued that this year with the Knicks.
Typically, he likes to use his big frame when driving inside, but this year he has lost significant weight and is moving a lot quicker with the ball.
Either way, this ability to get to the paint has paid off, with plenty of opportunities to either pass to open teammates or use his signature floater.
In fact, 84 of his 176 assists this season came either from kicking the ball out to an open shooter outside, or moving the ball along the perimeter for a three.
With Amar'e Stoudemire injured, Felton only really has one big man—Tyson Chandler—to work with in the pick-and-roll. While Felton has worked well with Chandler at times, only 28 of his assists have led to inside buckets.
Felton plays the point for the majority of the game for the Knicks. With the team having the second-ranked offense in terms of efficiency, he is doing a good job of setting up his teammates.
That said, Felton personally can be frustrating to watch at times. After a hot start, he has struggled to find his shooting touch of late.
This can be attributed to bone bruises in both of his hands, as well as what we now know is a broken pinkie.
Before learning the extent of his injury—which will keep him out 4-6 weeks—Felton was shooting 38 percent from the floor in December, including 30 percent from three-point range.
His shot selection hasn't been too poor; the shots he is missing are typically good jumpers and his floater just hasn't been falling recently. At some point, though, Felton has to realize that shooting 16.4 field goals per game is way too many when you're scoring so inefficiently.
With his fantastic shooting touch, Jason Kidd has spent much of the season playing at the two alongside Felton, where he has helped as a second pass-first presence in the lineup.
Since Felton's injury, though, Kidd has moved back to the point, where he has looked fantastic in his first two games.
At his age, he hasn't actually recorded a triple-double since the 2010-11 season, but the important thing is that he is contributing in three categories.
Though Kidd is slower than Felton, and unable to penetrate like he used to, his basketball IQ more than makes up for this.
Kidd's assist-to-bad-pass ratio is 5.3, making him the clear leader amongst the Knicks point guards with his decision-making rarely letting the team down.
You'd expect the fast break not to be an option with a 39-year-old point guard, but his quick hands have made him the team leader in steals with 1.8 per game, which gives him opportunities even despite his lack of speed. The same can be said about his ability to pull down long rebounds.
One thing to note about Kidd, though, is that his two games at point guard have come without the presence of Carmelo Anthony or Amar'e Stoudemire.
He has had to look for his own shot much more than at any other point in the season, and when they return he will likely do so much less. On the season, 78 percent of Kidd's field goals have been assisted on, so in terms of scoring he is much better utilized as a spot-up shooter.
On multiple occasions in his career, Pablo Prigioni was named the best point guard in the Spanish League. Though he hasn't been perfect so far, we are seeing flashes of what made him so good in Spain.
Prigioni is a player whose sole aim on the court is to set up his teammates, almost to a fault. He is only attempting 2.8 field goals per game, but with an effective field goal percentage of 50 percent on his jump shots, you'd like to see him take shooting opportunities more often.
When Prigioni is on the court, he typically uses screens on the majority of possessions, which gives him an advantage on his defender that he would otherwise lack one-on-one.
Like Felton, the large majority of his assists have come on three-point baskets, which is understandable with players like J.R. Smith and Steve Novak playing with him on the bench.
Prigioni has great vision, and in his younger years he must have been fantastic at finding his teammates. Every once in a while, you see him pull off a pass that most players wouldn't have even thought about.
He is working particularly well with Smith, whom he has set up for a number of highlight reel plays, and whom he quite often allows to bring the ball upcourt and run the offense.
At this point in the season, Prigioni is much more comfortable with the NBA than he was early on, but again he needs the confidence to shoot more. Right now, defenders know he isn't a threat to put a shot up unless he absolutely has to, and this is hurting him.
Overall, having this trio of point guards on the roster has been an absolute blessing for the Knicks. Between the three, you have every trait you could want in a good pass-first point guard, and the proof is in the success of the Knicks offense.
It will be interesting to see how the team handles Felton's injury in the long run, but with some of the team's other stars returning to health soon it shouldn't be a huge worry. Despite their age, Kidd and Prigioni have proven that they are perfectly capable of taking the reins of the offense, as we will see in the coming weeks.
All stats used in this article were accurate as of Dec. 31, 2012.
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