Breaking Down NY Knicks' Point Guard Position for 2014-15 Season

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Breaking Down NY Knicks' Point Guard Position for 2014-15 Season
Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

Phil Jackson's redevelopment of the New York Knicks is fully underway as the team prepares for the Zen Master's first full season as president.

A look at the team's point guard position confirms New York's evolution under Jackson's reign. 

As recently as June, the Knicks were widely perceived to be stuck with their putrid scenario at the point. Raymond Felton, coming off a brutal season and locked into contract for at least another year, was close to untradeable—not to mention his then-unsettled legal situation.

That was all until Jackson's front office packaged Felton with Tyson Chandler in a deal with the Dallas Mavericks, netting three players and two picks in return. 

One of those players, point man Jose Calderon, projects to be New York's starter over the foreseeable future. His contract is both lengthier and more costly than Felton's, but it's tough to argue that Calderon is much more suited to run the Knicks' triangle offense.

Ahead, we'll run through the changes made this summer, what's still left to settle and how the minutes should shake out this season.

 

Grading Last Year's Performance

After watching Felton struggle through a career-worst season in several areas—yet still get handed 31 minutes nightly by Mike Woodson—almost anything would be considered an improvement by Knicks fans. 

Felton shot 39.5 percent from the field, and he fired away three-pointers at the second-highest rate of his career, yet he made just 31.8 percent of them.

He provided only 28 percent of the team's assists while he was on the floor, which was his second-worst mark ever, and he posted a career-worst efficiency rating at 12.9. 

But for as miserable as Felton was with the ball in his hands, he may have been even worse defensively. According to 82games.com, he allowed 21 points per 48 minutes to opposing point guards while letting them shoot at a .482 effective field-goal rate.

For reference, Felton has posted a .482 effective field-goal percentage just twice in his career. The 17.6 PER he allowed is higher than any he himself has put up in any season.

The video below exemplifies Felton's flaws during a March game against the Kyrie Irving-less Cleveland Cavaliers, but it contains NSFW audio:

Synergy Sports had New York rated dead last in defending pick-and-roll plays last season, and Felton's defense was a primary factor.

When defending the pick-and-roll ball-handler, which made up 48.5 percent of his 656 defensive plays, Felton gave up 0.9 points per play, which ranked 205th among all NBA players. 

Behind Felton in the depth chart, Pablo Prigioni enjoyed solid success over 66 games, but the 37-year-old just wasn't capable of making a big enough impact to turn the tables.

He made 65 of his 140 three-pointers, which equated to a 46.5 percent mark from three-point range—among the best in the league.

Though his defense was active, age clearly restricts Prigioni from keeping up with the quicker guards in the league. Overall, he makes the Knicks better when he's on the floor, but last year on such a struggling team, his impact was almost meaningless.

Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images
Prigioni makes a positive impact for New York, especially in the pick-and-roll.

Beno Udrih spent time as the team's third point guard before he wandered into Woodson's doghouse and was eventually waived after the trade deadline.

He averaged 5.5 points and 3.5 assists over his 31 games (12 starts). The Knicks were a combined 10.8 points worse with him on the floor, according to Basketball-Reference.com.

When injuries sidelined both Felton and Prigioni, rookie Toure' Murry was thrust into a prime role in December and January. Though he showed promise and raw tools, Woodson neglected to give the 24-year-old any chance to earn a role over the other struggling Knicks guards. 

All in all, the point guard position was a concern for the Knicks going into the 2013-14 season, and it ended up being more of a disaster than they could've imagined. Giving the position any letter grade other than an F would be highly questionable.

 

What's Left to Settle?

Calderon has slid in as Felton's immediate replacement, but save for that, much is still in flux at the position for New York. 

Calderon, though his skills seem to fit the triangle offense precisely, has never played in the system. Though he's a knock-down shooter from distance and is capable of making correct reads, learning the nuances of the system will likely take time. 

Despite Prigioni's overall solid play, friendly contract and fan-favorite status, Jackson has been dangling him as a trade chip, according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.

But as things stand now, Prigioni is slotted as the backup, and the Knicks could certainly be in a worse position than that.

Chris Covatta/Getty Images

With Murry likely signing with the Utah Jazz, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein, Shane Larkin is set to be the team's third point guard.

He'll be battling for backcourt minutes with Calderon, Prigioni, Iman Shumpert, Tim Hardaway Jr. and J.R. Smith, so getting on the floor won't be easy for the second-year man out of Miami. But after going 18th in the 2013 NBA draft, he certainly has value at the position.

How Derek Fisher manages all that talent in the backcourt minutes-wise will play a huge part in the Knicks' success during his first season as coach.

Just a year ago, offseason fodder revolved around how—or if—Woodson would be able to manage minutes among the various personalities of the 2014 team. Fisher will obviously need to be a much better judge of things in that regard.

 

The New Rotation

Calderon should assume all of Felton's starter minutes moving forward, and as noted above, he seems to be a perfect fit in Fisher's triangle.

Calderon is a career 41 percent shooter from three-point range, and he has nailed those at a 45 percent clip over the last two years.

He's made appearances on several highlight reels over his career thanks to flashy, crisp passing, and his vision and reads will surely play a part in his triangle success.

Prigioni, considering his age and size, is what he is at this point. He's in tremendous shape for a 37-year-old guard, but his skills are essentially limited to spotting up and moving the ball when it comes his way—which isn't a bad thing.

He's good in his role and makes the Knicks better while he's on the floor—an average of 4.6 points per 100 possessions better over his two NBA years.

With another year of minutes on his tires, though, maybe he'll play slightly less of a role than his 20 minutes per game last season, especially with Larkin waiting for a chance behind him.

At just 5'11", Larkin has size disadvantages he'll need to overcome. Last season with the Mavericks, he suffered an ankle injury early on and didn't make his pro debut until mid-November.

He was frequently on the shuttle between Dallas and its D-League affiliate Texas Legends, and he never got an extended opportunity to make an impact for the Mavs.

Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

In Las Vegas for the Knicks during summer league play, Larkin was first exposed to Fisher's triangle, and he put his quickness and scoring ability on display—though his small frame often proved to be an issue against NBA competition, often getting swatted away at the rim after swift drives.

Larkin's future role in the NBA is uncertain at this point, though the Knicks hope his NCAA dominance translates to the pros.

Overall, it's reasonable to expect the Knicks to struggle this season. The Jackson and Fisher regime is underway, though several parts from the previous era still remain, and this year will act as a bridge between the two.

Though the point guard position is much improved, Calderon may be even worse defensively than Felton was, while age and size restrict Prigioni and Calderon on that end, too.

Jackson needed to improve his point guard situation going into the summer, and he managed to do so.

But with just a year remaining until the Knicks can afford to splurge in free agency—with Rajon Rondo and Goran Dragic set to hit the market—it's safe to expect even more flux at the position moving forward.

 

Follow me on Twitter at @JSDorn6.

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