The Knicks' Chronic Point Guard Problems
Jose Calderon has been a no-show once again this season, and it’s difficult to say whether his struggles are due to lingering injuries or old age. His jump shot is still a reliable threat, but his inability to get separation against every point guard in the league makes him that much less of a weapon.
Calderon was never the quickest player, and he has always relied on his fundamentals to dictate the game. However, there’s a limit to how much you can compensate for a lack of athleticism with great fundamentals.
Speaking of a lack of athleticism, Calderon’s defense is non-existent. Calderon does not have enough athletic ability to run with anyone, so even if he has a great offensive game, (he is currently averaging 4.6 points and 2.4 assists) he is guaranteed to have a horrible defensive game.
I understand the significance of veteran leadership, experience, and basketball IQ, but Calderon has to come off the bench at this stage of his career. It’s a shame that this is the result of trading away Tyson Chandler, but no one said Phil Jackson was perfect. Derek Fisher needs to give the role of starting point guard to either Langston Galloway or Jerian Grant.
Galloway has the edge over Grant for a couple of reasons. Galloway is a much more reliable shooter. In his first 5 games, Galloway is shooting 65% from 3-point territory. That percentage will drop, but Galloway will continue to help Melo, Porzingis and eventually Afflalo have a lot more room to run the triangle. Also, Galloway is a very underrated defender. He likes to run back on defense, and he has a great “sleight of hand” –Walt Clyde Frazier
Grant has the tools to become the Knicks’ starting point guard for years to come. He’s the most athletic player on the team, he’s long for a point guard at 6’4" and he has great distributive tendencies. In fact, my criticism of Grant so far is that he is actually too unselfish. Grant is important for the second team because he is also the best on the Knicks at getting to the basket. When Melo is off the floor, a guy like Grant is very important to get other players going.
Calderon could still prove to have some relevance on this Knicks team, but a new role must be established. He could be effective coming off the bench alongside Grant as an off-ball point guard, similar to Jason Kidd in 2012-2013. Calderon is still great at shooting and passing, as long as he doesn't have to move a lot.
Point Guard is the deepest position in the NBA. Even with two promising prospects in Galloway and Grant, the Knicks are definitely one of the worst teams in the league at that position. Unfortunately, President Phil is going to have issues trading Calderon, because he still has another year on his contract, and not many people will want to trade for an overpaid, injury prone old man.
The good news is that the Knicks have legitimate depth this year, and with the cap projected to rise around $22 million next year, the Knicks will have the chance to attract another floor general in the off-season, and potentially trade away Calderon’s expiring deal.
The Knicks are not winning a championship this year, but they will be entertaining to watch. I’d like to acknowledge how nice it is that the Knicks have professional basketball players on their team.