The New York Knicks need a new point guard.
That's not exactly breaking news if you've been following trade rumors or spending any time on Twitter over the last few days, but the lack of novelty doesn't diminish the truthful nature of the statement.
Once more, the Knicks need a new point guard.
Raymond Felton just isn't getting the job done as the team struggles to win games and stay in the playoff picture, despite calling the weak Eastern Conference home. New York exits the All-Star break with a 20-32 record, one that leaves it sitting at No. 10 in the East.
The struggle at point guard isn't the only reason for the lackluster record, but it's a big one.
According to 82games.com, the Knicks floor generals are producing a 13.0 PER and allowing opposing 1-guards to put up a 16.8 PER. Obviously that's not a good disparity, but it looks even worse when compared to other positions.
Shooting guard is the worst of the five—thanks a lot, J.R. Smith—but every part of the frontcourt has been positive.
Fortunately for the Knicks, plenty of point guards are on the market. Unfortunately, the team is limited by its lack of tradable assets.
This article is not ranking the targets in order of a trade's likelihood of coming to fruition. Instead, the point guards count down toward the backcourt member who would be the best fit for the team.
Due to the dearth of first-round picks at their disposal and the limited nature of the young, high-upside players, the Knicks may not make a move at all. Desire doesn't necessarily lead to a deal. But if they do, these are the best targets of the bunch.
Note: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, come from Basketball-Reference and are current as of Feb. 18.
Team: Denver Nuggets
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 5.9 points, 2.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.2 blocks, 13.7 PER
Andre Miller may have earned a spot on the list, and he may be the No. 5 option, but consider him more of a distant fifth than a player with any chance of moving up into the quartet of point guards who would actually improve the Knicks.
"The Knicks, though, are clearly determined to try to import a floor leader before the trade deadline. Sources say Denver's Andre Miller is another target, but New York is said to prefer a younger guard such as Lowry or Teague," writes ESPN.com's Marc Stein.
Bear with me, but I fail to see the logic.
It makes sense for the Knicks to prefer Kyle Lowry or Jeff Teague, both of whom will be discussed later in this article, but why is Miller even on the radar?
New York needs an upgrade at point guard, not a 37-year-old floor general who hasn't played much this season thanks to a skirmish with Denver Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw. The Knicks need someone who can shoot and play defense, not a slow-footed veteran who thrives when he puts his back to the basket.
Miller is featured here simply because sources have confirmed that he's a backup plan for the struggling New York organization.
He's just not a good fit.
Team: Toronto Raptors
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 6.8 points, 2.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.0 blocks, 10.0 PER
Now we move into the realm of players who actually make sense for New York, though there's an important caveat here.
This is pure speculation, as no rumors have linked Greivis Vasquez to the Knicks. Quite frankly, nothing has suggested that the Toronto Raptors have any interest in trading the former Terrapin, as Kyle Lowry has been the point guard referenced in rumors by just about everyone at this point.
However, that doesn't prevent Vasquez from being a decent fit.
The Raptors don't have much use for him if Lowry stays put, and his talent is being marginalized by the time he spends on the bench. There's no way the 27-year-old point guard should be playing less than 20 minutes per game, as he's done since moving from the Sacramento Kings to his current location.
Vasquez is a defensive liability—who hasn't been on the Knicks, though?—but he can make things happen with the ball in his hands. This is a guy who recored more assists than anyone else in the NBA during the 2012-13 season, finished No. 3 in assists per game, behind only Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul, and trailed just CP3 in assist percentage.
Given the degree to which New York players have struggled to connect on their field-goal attempts, having a great distributor would be immensely helpful.
Team: Atlanta Hawks
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 15.6 points, 2.6 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.2 blocks, 15.9 PER
From a skills perspective, Jeff Teague is a great fit for the Knicks.
That said, here's ESPN New York's Ian Begley on how the Wake Forest product would end up taking his talents to the Big Apple:
One scenario to keep an eye on, though, is the possibility of a three-team deal involving the Hawks and point guard Jeff Teague. Atlanta has all of its first-round picks in the next four drafts and could conceivably send one to Toronto to satisfy the Raptors' demand for a draft pick.
League sources say a scenario in which Teague ends up in Toronto, Shumpert goes to Atlanta and Lowry winds up in New York has been discussed. Another scenario could have Teague ending up in New York. The conversations are believed to be preliminary.
A two-team trade between the Knicks and Atlanta Hawks seems quite unlikely, simply because New York doesn't have that many attractive assets. Beyond Tim Hardaway Jr., Iman Shumpert and a 2050 first-round pick (at least it feels like the next available pick is that far off), the Knicks front office doesn't have much to work with.
Then again, they shouldn't have to worry about it.
Teague doesn't make much sense for the Knicks, even if he's a big upgrade over Vasquez due to A) his youth, B) his rim-attacking presence as a scorer, C) his defensive skills and D) his nature as a versatile threat on offense.
B/R's Dan Favale goes into a detailed breakdown of the financial ramifications, but I'll give you the shortened version. Signing Teague would prevent the Knicks from enjoying too much cap space in 2015, which is expected to be one of the big selling points in convincing Carmelo Anthony to stay with the franchise.
Is Teague worth it if acquiring him means losing 'Melo? Nope.
Is he even worth it if acquiring him means a chance of losing 'Melo? Still nope.
Team: Toronto Raptors
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 16.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.2 blocks, 20.1 PER
As ESPN's Marc Stein reports, a trade revolving around Kyle Lowry might not be forthcoming.
"Recent reports have stated the Raptors are no longer willing to deal Lowry, content to see how the rest of the season plays out," he writes. "Lowry has been one of Toronto's best players, and dealing him would send a bad message to the fan base."
That hasn't dissuaded the Knicks from hoping they can land him, although they're reluctant to include either Tim Hardaway Jr. or a future first-round pick. Without committing to one or both of those assets, it's going to be absolutely impossible for them to secure the services of Lowry.
The All-Star should've-been All-Star has been playing fantastic basketball throughout the 2013-14 season, especially since Rudy Gay was traded to the Sacramento Kings. With increased offensive responsibility, Lowry has thrived, converting a few non-believers into supporters along the way.
He's a two-way presence who would undoubtedly be a major upgrade over Raymond Felton, but for how long?
That's the downside with Lowry, as he could amount to nothing more than a half-season rental.
His contract expires at the end of the season, and re-signing him could get expensive. Are the Knicks willing to risk letting him walk away at the conclusion of the 2013-14 campaign? Are they willing to sign him to a lengthy deal, one that inhibits the star-culling process in 2015?
Team: Boston Celtics
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 9.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.0 blocks, 16.1 PER
The Knicks need to make a play for Rajon Rondo, as B/R's Grant Hughes makes perfectly clear:
The Knicks need to move Heaven and Earth, strike deals with the man downstairs or pray to whoever it is James Dolan worships (probably Eric Clapton or the Allman Brothers). Whatever they need to do, whatever back-channel dealings have to happen, the Knicks must make every possible play they can for Rondo.
Problem is, it still won't work.
The Knicks just don't have enough assets to get Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge to pick up the phone. Then again, half the league probably has two thoughts when James Dolan's name pops up on the caller I.D.:
- "Uh oh. Here comes a waste of my time..."
- "Yes! How can I swindle him now!?!"
The latter thought might belong solely to Masai Ujiri, but hey, it still exists.
Rondo going to the Knicks is highly unlikely unless a third team helps facilitate a deal, but that doesn't diminish the appeal. No. 9 is clearly the best point guard even remotely available.
While the Boston floor general has struggled in his return from a torn ACL, there's no cause for alarm. He'll regain his former level, especially because his game isn't predicated on athleticism.
Earlier in the season, reports surfaced—via ESPN's Brian Windhorst—that the Knicks were hoping Rondo would force his way to New York. It was a desire surrounded by hubristic ignorance, but there's a reason the interest in the four-time All-Star hasn't waned.
Rondo would be perfect for the Knicks. They just have to find a way to get him.