Ricky Ledo is gone, y'all.
Normally the thought of losing aplayer of Ledo's caliber wouldn't warrant a second thought -- dude was given a few chances, and has yet to prove he's anything close to NBA-ready. Here's hoping he keeps working on his game and builds a productive career for himself, but it's just not happening right now.
However, this Ledo business got me thinking: just how many guards do the Knicks have at the moment? Let's take a gander at the current roster:
- Jose Calderon
- Jerian Grant
- Langston Galloway
- Arron Afflalo
- Carmelo Anthony
- Cleanthony Early
- Lance Thomas
- Derrick Williams
- Kristaps Porzingis
- Kyle O'Quinn
- Lou Amundson
- Robin Lopez
Only the first four players on that list -- Calderon, Grant, Galloway and Afflalo -- can comfortably be described as guards. That number seems a bit light, does it not? Sure, you have two starters and two backups, but Calderon isn't exactly the picture of health these days. What will they do if he goes down again?
And here's where things get even more tricky: a strong argument could be made that three of those four guard should start. Conventional wisdom says the Knicks will use a starting lineup of Calderon/Afflalo/Melo/PF/Lopez. This simply cannot happen if they want to avoid the mistakes of 2014-15, where New York spent most of the season pretending the three-point line didn't exist. The Melo-at-the-3 experiment last season was a disaster (opponents shot 42% from beyond the arc against him), Afflalo has been a statistical negative on D for several years now, and Calderon is among the worst defenders in the league. Can the Knicks really expect three dudes in their 30s to defend the perimeter in today's small-ball, pace-and-space NBA?*
(Note: we all know from experience that Knicks coaches often expect all kinds of crazy, impossible shit which their players aren't capable of providing them, but I'm going to give Derek Fisher the benefit of the doubt.)
If New York intends to put out a lineup that can defend the perimeter and cover for Melo, they have only a few options:
and, just for fun...
- Grant/Afllalo/Porzingis/Melo/Lopez, with Kristaps guarding the opposing wing
Kristaps-on-the-wing would be fun as hell, and I hope they experiment with it in the pre-season. The kid is a damn freak of nature, and quick enough to guard certain small forwards. Hell, we might even see him duck under a screen, raise his arms over the screener at the last second and block the shot anyway. I'm very happy he's on the Knicks. Still, I doubt they plan to use Krispy this way, for the sake of his development as a true big.
Other than Lance Thomas and maybe Porzingis, I'm not sure who else can play alongside Melo and guard the perimeter. Derrick Williams and Cleanthony Early haven't shown very much defense at all, let alone enough to cover for Melo.
The Knicks will be putting an awfully heavy burden on Grant and Galloway next season, if only due to the lack of options. Calderon will get minutes, but between his age, injury concerns and butt-ugly defense, he probably shouldn't start.
So how can the Knicks improve their depth at guard? They could try Thanasis Antetokounmpo, who played some shooting guard in Westchester, but that would be a rough assignment for a player known for turnovers and poor shooting. Could undrafted free agent Wesley Saunders be the answer? Difficult to say right now, especially since we didn't even get to see him play with the Knicks Summer League team.
If they want to find a guard, the Knicks might have to look outside the organization. Head on over to NBA.com and check out the remaining unsigned guards -- it's scary as hell.
I miss you already, Alexey Shved.