3:19 pm May. 8, 2012
With Baron Davis out for a year following a gruesome knee injury in Sunday's game against Miami, the Knicks have, as anyone who watches them for more than a few seconds knows, a point-guard problem.
Assuming Jeremy Lin doesn't try to play, who can the Knicks play for the majority of time at point guard?
Should it be Mike Bibby, the painfully slow veteran shooting 28 percent on the season? Or Toney Douglas, whose utter futility running the offense led the Knicks to turn to Lin in the first place?
It shouldn't be either of them. Both Bibby and Douglas simply take up space in a lineup without providing the Knicks with any value, while a number of options on the bench—Steve Novak, Josh Harrellson and Jared Jeffries—could actually make themselves useful by taking advantage of one of Miami's relative weaknesses.
In a perfect world, the Knicks need a point guard capable of penetrating to create space, capable of finding Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire in places on the court conducive to scoring and capable of knocking down enough perimeter jumpers to keep the defense honest. Davis could do that, and so could Lin. None of others can.
Take the use of Mike Bibby down the stretch in Game 4. Sure, Bibby made an important shot to give New York the lead. But think about the way he was used in that sequence: He was standing, motionless, in the corner, wide open. Steve Novak is far more capable of hitting a shot from that position. If Miami covers him closely, as they have throughout the series, that simply creates more space elsewhere on the floor for Anthony, Stoudemire, and even Tyson Chandler. That spot can also be filled by Josh Harrellson, who is both more capable of making a three-pointer than Bibby, and a far better rebounder.
Toney Douglas would be an even worse option, given his flaws: bad decisions resulting in turnovers, and missed shots, usually from the perimeter, creating long rebounds. In both instances, Miami has the chance to respond with transition offense, where the Heat is at their best. If you've seen LeBron James sprint down the court, you know exactly how dangerous this is.
Miami's weakness, and perhaps the only area in which the Knicks have stayed with the Heat, is in the rebounding department. Little can help New York more than rebounds, giving them precious second-shot opportunities and limiting Miami's.
Josh Harrellson and, to the extent he is healthy, Jared Jeffries both excel at rebounding. And both can limit Miami's chances to convert in the paint, especially when Tyson Chandler is resting.
And both are capable of contributing to the offense as it actually runs right now, in emergency mode: with Anthony finding Stoudemire, Smith finding Anthony, or Smith shooting himself. Pretending anything else is going on is what leads to playing a point guard in name only.
Absent a point guard to make them more efficient with possessions, the Knicks need to get more rebounds to create more possessions in the first place.
If Lin can't go, the Knicks should go big, let J.R. Smith or Carmelo Anthony take the ball up the court as best they can, and forget the point-guard idea altogether. It's their least crazy option.