I am one of the millions of Knicks fans who have witnessed the last 20 years of front office famine and on-court massacres. I come to you not asking for penance or pleading for reparations. I only have one plea: Please fix the Knicks’ guard problem. The time has come to address a 20-year conundrum this summer fully. The option is right in front of you. His name is Jaden Ivey. I have used my platform on this blog to preach the necessity of the Knicks front office going all-in on Ivey as the future.
He’s everything you need in a modern guard. At 6’4, 195 lbs, he’s built like a tank and can guard perimeter defenders on switches. While at Purdue, he’s proven to be fearless, constantly attacking defense and getting to the line. He can score from all three levels. In addition, he possesses the fastest first step in this year’s draft and routinely beats defenders off the dribble throughout the season.
He also has the look, not to mention the name: Ivey. You can hear it ringing out through MSG now in fourth-quarter chants. You can imagine Mike Breen screaming it at the top of his lungs. Clyde Frazier would have a plethora of similar-sounding adjectives to rhyme it with. Raised by a former WNBA player, Niele, Ivey grew up in the gym. She’s currently the head coach of the women’s program at Notre Dame. He comes from this. Plus, he’s a bona fide gym rat who learned his tireless work ethic from his mom. That’s the kind of pedigree we’ve been lacking at this position. By all accounts, he’s a high character and loves the spotlight that comes with big games.
The hapless Sacramento Kings have already given their team an edict to make next year's playoffs. Just like Steve Mills did in 2019. Remember how that went down? Mills signed three power forwards and missed the playoffs. So it’s the perfect time to unload some vets, take on some of their unwanted players, and swap the No. 11 pick for the No. 4.
We haven’t had this kind of athletic guard wearing the orange and blue since Stephon Marbury in the early 2000s. And we all remember how chaotic that tenure was. It essentially signaled the end of Marbury’s NBA career. Since then, only Phil Jackson had utilized the draft to solve the point guard issue in New York when he took Frank Ntilikina with the 8th pick in 2017. Ntilikina now plays with the Dallas Mavericks, so that says everything you need to know how that experiment turned out. Then, of course, you could count Nate Robinson, who was picked in 2005 by Isiah Thomas but mainly as a backup, or Jerian Grant, another Phil pick in 2015, who was traded after only a year with the Knicks.
Otherwise, the other six GMs, beginning with Scott Layden and concluding with the current exec, Leon Rose, have adopted one of the following directions in addressing the point guard position:
Sign/trade for a rapidly-declining former star: Mike Bibby, Chauncey Billups, Steve Francis, Jose Calderon, Derrick Rose, Jason Kidd, Kemba Walker, and Brandon Jennings.
Try to turn bench guys into starters: Toney Douglas, Chris Duhon, Elfrid Payton, Moochie Norris, Jeremy Lin, Shane Larkin, Trey Burke, Langston Galloway, Jarret Jack, Ramon Sessions, Emmanuel Mudiay, Anthony Carter, Howard Eisley, Frank Williams, and Pablo Prigioni.
Then, there’s Raymond Felton. The plump guard was the closest thing the Knicks had to consistency through his two stints (2010-2011) and (2012-2013). But he was slightly above average at best. It’s hard to imagine him surviving today’s modern NBA. He would be too slow, too out of shape, and too poor a shooter to keep up with the current pace and space offense.
Since taking over the Knicks, you (Leon) have built the team on defense, high character, and shooting. It’s been since the late ’90s, but we finally have a young core. We even have a few potential All-Stars. But, while you’ve done a great job at restoring culture and accountability within our ranks, we still have a giant hole at the point. This summer, it finally has to end. We must address the point this summer, and it has to come from the draft.
The list of potential free agents is underwhelming and overpriced. Jalen Brunson, whose father Rick you just hired as an assistant coach, is a fine young guard. At 25-years-old, he fits the Knicks timeline. But it’s been obvious these playoffs with the Mavericks that he’s hit his ceiling as a 6’1”, guard with nominal athleticism. He has the benefit of playing off a generational talent in Luka Luka Dončić, but has given no indication he can lead a team as the primary ballhandler and distributor. Anything over $20 million a year for Brunson is a massive overpay.
Collin Sexton is coming off a severe knee injury and will command even more in the open market than Brunson. And while he’s a significant upgrade offensively, the Cavaliers have seemed to play better without his ball-dominant usage, lackadaisical defense, and at times mercurial attitude. Elsewhere, Tyus Jones of the Memphis Grizzlies would be another name to add to the list of backups we’ve tried to turn into starters. None of the aging guards sound particularly enticing either — Goran Dragic, Ricky Rubio, Gary Harris, Dennis Schröder. All those names sound exactly like who the Knicks would have signed under previous administrations. Either that or swing a abominable trade for Russell Westbrook’s expiring deal. If anything, we Knicks fans appreciate your prudence.
When looking at the trade market, Malcolm Brogdon would instantly be the best point guard since Marbury. Still, the all-around guard is approaching 30 and would signal a recommitment to building around Julius Randle instead of RJ Barrett. So we’ll pass on that.
This leaves the draft as our best course of action to solve the guard dilemma. There are multiple reasons to take this route. It stays on the timeline of our under-25 core. It gives the draft experts you put in place, Scott Perry and Walt Perrin, a chance to do what they do best. It allows us to potentially package disgruntled Randle and other veterans to the Sacramento Kings for their fourth pick. It gives us a three-level scoring guard with explosive athleticism and a thirst for the limelight. Ivey showed he could thrive in a half-court set at Purdue. Imagine what he could unlock in Tom Thibodeau’s system, with athletes like Obi Toppin, RJ Barrett, and Cam Reddish running the break. Holy shit.
Ivey isn't the best facilitator, but we have a ton of playmaking between Barrett, Evan Fournier, and Immanuel Quickley. So, Leon, we’re begging you. It's time to take the home run swing. It's the swing you've yet to take. And we get it; being patient is your thing. But Ivey is the guy. You have the assets to make the deal. You just gotta get it done. You’ll be the first guy in more than 20 years whose been in your position to pull it off. It’s more than time. Get it done. Please.
A Knick fan