Knicks Point Guard Problems Puts Pressure on New York to Make Kyle Lowry Trade

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistDecember 18, 2013

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 11: Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors looks on against the Houston Rockets on November 11, 2013 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)
Bill Baptist/Getty Images

When Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri orders pizza, he puts it on New York Knicks owner James Dolan's tab.

That's how much power Ujiri has over Dolan. Whatever mind-control devices he's employing, they've worked. Repeatedly. And he may be on the verge of one-upping Dolan again.

Pablo Prigioni is now watching from the sidelines, which could force the Knicks to revisit Kyle Lowry scenarios.

The Knicks discussed trading for Lowry previously, but nothing came to fruition. Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reported the price became too high.

Barren at the point guard position, and frantically trying to save their season, the Knicks have no choice but to reconsider. What was once too expensive, is now more than necessary.


Who Else?

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 03: Raymond Felton #2 and Pablo Prigioni #9 of the New York Knicks high-five on court during the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on November 3, 2013 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. NOTE TO USER: User ex
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

Desperate times call for Chris Smith.

Prigioni isn't the only point guard out. Raymond Felton is tending to an injured hamstring, leaving the Knicks with Beno Udrih and Toure' Murry, the latter of which has played 34 total minutes this season.

Injuries have put the Knicks in a difficult spot. Prigioni's and Felton's absences are in addition to Amar'e Stoudemire's and Kenyon Martin's. This isn't about merely plugging a gaping hole at point guard anymore, it's about surviving offensively.

Iman Shumpert will play some point guard and both J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony will be asked to provide additional playmaking as well. Reinforcements also include Swish's younger brother, Chris. That's the point New York has reached.

Knicks fans are free to ball their eyes out now.


Priggy Smalls' Impact

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 8: Head Coach Mike Woodson of the New York Knicks talks with player Pablo Prigioni #9 of the New York Knicks during a game against the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden in New York City on December 8, 2013.  NOTE TO USER: Use
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Prigioni's value on offense cannot be overstated. Way before Felton went down, he was the Knicks' most important playmaker. Their best point guard.

When he's on the floor, the ball moves crisply and frequently. Selflessness becomes contagious. Isolations die.

When he's off, all one-on-one, anemic hell breaks loose.


The Knicks are more than six points per 100 possessions better with Prigioni on the floor compared to Felton or Udrih, according to (subscription required). With him running the show, their offensive rating sits at 105.6, the equivalent of ninth best in the league. Overall, they're ranked 19th (101.8). That's a stark contrast in production.

Below is a look at where New York's offense would rank with each point guard on the floor:


Need I say more?

Didn't think so.

New York needs a point guard. The Knicks need Prig. But since they cannot have Prig (right now), they'll be forced to look for outside help.


Past Precedent

DENVER, CO - MAY 9: Denver Nuggets Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri poses for a photo after being named 2012-2013 NBA Executive of the Year on May 9, 2013 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly a
Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

Ujiri and Dolan have been to this dinner party before.

First there was the Anthony trade in 2011, when Ujiri swindled the Knicks and Dolan out of Danilo Gallinari (miss you, Gallo), Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov, a 2014 first-round draft pick, Felton (he's like a bad penny, this guy) and two second-round selections. New York threw in $3 million in cash for good measure too, even though the Denver Nuggets had almost no leverage.

Anthony wasn't going to the then-New Jersey Nets. Wasn't going to happen. See what Deron Williams put up with this to this point? Not even a potential move to Brooklyn would've sold Anthony on that situation. I guarantee it.

The Knicks could've signed 'Melo outright in free agency, while relinquishing none of the aforementioned assets. Anthony wanted his money, sure, but he wanted to play in New York more. Being traded to the Knicks was a dream come true.

Remain patient. That's all Dolan had to do. And he mucked it up. 

Dolan couldn't wait once, he may not be able to wait again.
Dolan couldn't wait once, he may not be able to wait again.Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Live and learn though. Anthony is a superstar, the trade was justifiable and Dolan wouldn't make the same mistake twice.


Upon making the move from Denver to Toronto, Ujiri's first order of business was telling Dolan to wash his car, mow his lawn and give him more picks—Jimmy D. complied. 

New York traded Steve Novak, Marcus Camby and a 2016 first-round pick to Toronto for Andrea Bargnani. The trade in and of itself wasn't bad—yeah, I'm going there—but it was at the same time. 

Ujiri was itching to move the two years and $23-plus million remaining on Bargs' deal. "Itching," I say. Somehow, the Knicks felt it smart to fork over another first-rounder, knowing that Bargs wasn't a person of interest in Toronto.

The Knicks were basically Dolaned, which is a lot like finding out your home is infested with mutated, finger-eating bedbugs.


Shifted Leverage

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 3: Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors in a game against the Golden State Warriors on December 3, 2013 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using t
Rocky Widner/Getty Images

Coming to his senses roughly more than two years too late, Dolan vetoed a trade that would've landed the Knicks Lowry.

According to Isola, there was a deal in place, but Dolan got cold feet:

According to a source familiar with the talks, Dolan had second thoughts about trading for Lowry and was also — what else? — enraged that details of the proposed deal had been leaked to the media.

According to several reports, the Knicks were prepared to trade Raymond Felton and Metta World Peace plus Iman Shumpert or Tim Hardaway Jr. or a 2018 first-round pick. The Raptors preferred the first-round pick, but Dolan — who negotiated the Carmelo Anthony trade with Raptors GM Masai Ujiri when Ujiri was with the Denver Nuggets — got cold feet about trading a future asset. That could open the door for the Brooklyn Nets to acquire Lowry instead.

Way to go, Dolan. Seriously. Pats on the back, fist and chest bumps and good-spirited headbutts all around. He finally got it right, and I actually mean that.

Lowry, while affordable, is on an expiring contract. Smitten by the prospect of cap flexibility in 2015, there's no guarantee the Knicks would keep him beyond this season. There's also no guarantee he would want to return. Mortgaging future assets on that many "maybes" is never good business.

Rational or not, Dolan finally made a wise decision.

But fate is apparently in the employ of Ujiri. 

Ujiri bested the Knicks twice. Can he do so a third time?
Ujiri bested the Knicks twice. Can he do so a third time?Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Down went Priggy Smalls against the Washington Wizards, putting New York at the mercy of Toronto.

Some combination of Murry, Udrih and Smith, along with Shumpert, won't be enough. Felton, if he returns before Prig, won't be enough. There's a reason New York sought for outside help before now.

Just like that, Toronto holds all the leverage. All of it.

The Raptors are no longer a team trying to tank, in need of capitalizing off of Lowry's inevitable departure now—with every other interested team, maybe, but not the Knicks. They're in a bind, a quagmire Ujiri can take advantage of.

Toronto doesn't have to lower its asking price. Knowing New York is desperate, the Raptors can hold firm, putting pressure on a browbeaten Knicks team to either meet Ujiri's demands, or roll the dice on an assortment of misfits.


Now What?

Feb 13, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry (3) puts up a shot over the defense of New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) and point guard Pablo Prigioni (9) during the first half at Madison Square Garden.  Mandatory
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Whatever the Raptors are asking for Lowry is ridiculously high. Unreasonably steep. And perfect if they're looking to deal with the Knicks.

Ujiri's asking price and Dolan's pride (funny, right?) no longer matter as much. The biggest concern is New York's survival. How will the Knicks get by without Prigioni? Can they, in good conscience, move forward with Felton and Prig, knowing both have battled injuries this season? Is Chris Smith a future All-Star?

Talented, capable point guards are a must for every team, more so for the Knicks, who haven't shown they can contend offensively without one. 

But Prig is gone, and Felton is neither healthy nor good enough. After that, it gets ugly. Allowing-Chris-Smith-to-play-in-an-actual-NBA-game hideous.

What are the Knicks to do? At 10 games under .500 (7-17), this season is already in jeopardy of becoming pointless. Do they submit to that fate or simply hope the losing stops—or do they invest in Lowry, an external solution with a high price tag?

The Knicks don't want to hand Ujiri Shumpert, Hardaway Jr. or another first-rounder. And they shouldn't want to. Trading for Lowry, while meeting Toronto's demands, isn't something they should do. This deal isn't one they should strike.

But now, bankrupted by injuries and watching their postseason ambitions slip away, it's a trade they may have to make.



*All stats used are courtesy of (subscription required).


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