The Knicks entered this season with a glimmer of hope. Through their first 44 games, they were 22-22, contesting other Eastern Conference teams for the 8th seed. A mix of mental toughness, solid bench play, and a defensive scheme that helped defend threes made the Knicks look like an actual playoff team. It seemed as if Fisher finally got through to this team as a coach. Then Melo was affected by nagging knee injuries, and the flaws of the Knicks as a whole spun out of control.
Fisher ended up going 23-31 before Phil Jackson stated, “it’s a lot easier to fire a coach than 15 players.” The firing of Fisher was a mix of losing games, Matt Barnes, and shying away from the triangle. New head coach and company man Kurt Rambis has stayed true to Jackson’s triangle views, but how has this affected the rotation?
Jose Calderon is maintaining his minutes, while Jerian Grant’s minutes are diminishing. This would be understandable if the Knicks were making a push to the playoffs, and if Calderon was the right fit, but a serious change needs to be implemented for the sake of the future. Calderon’s lack of a defensive presence means that in the pick and roll, guys like Robin Lopez and Kristaps Porzingis are forced to play as far back as possible, giving the other team’s point guard the necessary room to create.
Calderon defenders will argue that his experience in running an NBA offense and terrific shooting makes him a terrific pair with Melo and Porzingis. Although there may be some truth to that, his inability to create off the dribble at this point in his career, mixed with his inability to defend every point guard in the league, makes him a major liability that has picked up in the scouting reports of every team.
If Jerian Grant was playing with the first team, he could give the Knicks a much needed edge in certain aspects of the game. For one, Grant’s defense has the potential to be outstanding. He is 6’4”, which is tall for a point guard, and he is just as athletic as the elites at his position.
On the offensive end, you can think of Grant as the anti-Calderon. His major flaw is shooting. He is shooting 36% from the field and a horrendous 17% from three point range. Those stats can be misleading, because he is not a score-first point guard, and his main intention on the floor is to create shots for others. Grant is without a doubt the best penetrator on the team. Check out this pick and pop with Porzingis:
Despite the high upside of giving Grant the responsibility of playing with the big boys, Coach Rambis might do the exact opposite.
The Knicks lack identity. They are dead last in fast break points, and that has a big correlation with getting no stops on defense, and having a tortoise as the starting point guard. The eye test says it all, every basket the Knicks get is a contested jumper, while every basket the opposition gets is an open look.
No matter what you think about Calderon, he is too old to be considered a part of the future, and the Knicks are not winning a championship this season. It is time Phil Jackson and Kurt Rambis cut their losses and develop for the future. If not, B-list free agents will have no desire to join New York, not to mention Kevin Durant and Mike Conley.