Blue and Orange Prisms: Projecting the Point

Posted: May 11, 2012 by sirdiggy in sports
Tags: , , , ,

Over on Knickerblogger.net, there is a compelling debate going on about what the team should do over the summer given what’s happened over the course of this season.  Getting beat in the playoffs by a team that is perhaps the favorite to win the NBA Title tends to break out the old measuring stick.  The short of it is this: Outside of Game 1 of this past playoff series, the Miami Heat did not look like invulnerable world-beaters.  Unfortunately, the Knicks did not have the firepower to truly take advantage, save for winning Game Four of the series at MSG. 

This particular post will focus solely on the team’s outlook at starting point guard.

***

One of the team’s biggest warts this season was from the floor general position – the point-guard.  The emergence of Jeremy Lin proved that good point-guard play (in a non-triangle offensive system) means almost everything to an NBA offense, especially when your next-best passer only averages 3.6 assists per game.  Yes, the team found ways to compensate when Lin was lost for (what turned out to be) the season due to knee surgery.  But such compensatory methods wilted when the Knicks faced the elite defensive schemes of the Heat.

This summer, one of the very best floor generals will become available: two-time league MVP Steve Nash will be a free agent and is widely expected to leave the Phoenix Suns for a championship contender.  At present, the Knicks talk about being championship contenders, but have yet to consistently show they can beat the NBA big boys with regularity – regular season and playoffs.  But its been reported that Mr. Nash is fond of NYC, spending parts of his summers in Manhattan.  Amaré Stoudamire, Nash’s former teammate in Phoenix, has already started campaigning for Nash to join him here in New York.  And maybe the Knicks could convince Nash that he’s the missing piece to a championship contender?

This brings us back to Jeremy Lin: he’s a restricted free agent, meaning the Knicks can match any offer another teams makes for him.  But the concern that’s starting to surface is how much of a raise will Lin solicit, and will such a raise impede on the Knicks’ chances of luring Nash.  According to this ABC News article, the most Lin will likely make is around $5 million next season.  The problem with that salary figure is that’s the limit the Knicks can sign any player under the league’s Mid-Level Exception (MLE).  Steve Nash, due mostly to his age (38), is widely assumed to be offered the MLE by championship-contending teams.  Long story short: if another team signs Lin to an offer sheet of $5 million per year and the Knicks match it, they’ll be using up their MLE on Lin, which will take them out of the running for Nash.

This potentially puts the Knicks in an interesting pickle.  The ideal situation, of course, is to resign Lin for less than the MLE, then use the MLE to lure in Nash.  That nets you the pass-first floor general (12.5 ppg, 10.6 apg this season) whom, by-the-way, shot better that 53% from the floor this season to go along with 39% from downtown.  Boy, could the Knicks could use another guard that makes opponents pay for leaving the perimeter open.  Sure, this will put Lin on the bench, but think about this: what better mentor could you have for a young point guard?  If Nash joins the Knicks and plays until he’s 40, that gives Lin a two-year apprenticeship.  The young Harvard grad has shown to be a quick study during the season – imagine how much he can absorb from Nash.  And as far as the roster goes, the Knicks need a quality point to run their second unit – Baron Davis’ career is likely over after wrecking his knee in the playoffs, Bibby’s coffin career is also coming to a close, and Toney Douglas… um, well, uh…

You can definitely argue that Lin is due a substantial raise with his lottery-pick-level, NBA-start-worthy play (14.6 ppg, 6.2 apg, 19.97 PER) in his first true season of real court time.  In comparison, 2011 top draft pick and Cleveland Cavalier rookie Kyrie Irving averaged 18.5 ppg, 5.4 apg, a PER of 21.47 (only a point-and-a-half higher than the undrafted Lin) and is making $5 million a year.  So if another team believes Lin is indeed the $5 mil and signs him to an offer sheet… better yet, if Lin decides he’s worth the full $5 mil and signs another team’s offer sheet, should the Knicks match it and lose out on a proven, top-flight point guard who has made a career of elevating the play of his teammates?

The answer to that depends on a few things:

  1. Nash’s point guard prowess is unquestioned, but for someone just finishing his 16th season in the NBA, you have to question how quality production much he has left in him despite the fact he keeps himself in great shape.
  2. Jeremy Lin’s emergence saved the Knicks’ season when the team’s record was 8-15.  His emergence, as stated above, also solved the team’s point guard woes.  But it is also believed that Linsanity expedited the end of the MSG Network standoff between Cablevision and Time Warner.  In addition, Lin’s play allowed Cablevision boss James Dolan to strike lucrative business deals out in the Far East.  And he’s only 23.  Ideally, there’s no way in hell you let a player like that walk for $5 million.  BUT…
  3. If the Knicks truly believe they can shoot for the NBA Title next season and in 2013-2014 while Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler are in their primes (sorry Amaré, but unless you can return to your career averages of 21.6 ppg and 8.8 rpg next season, you’re not in your prime anymore), then there’s logic to favoring Nash at the expense of letting Lin go.

So if it comes down to a choice of either the young gun or the old vet, what path would you sell Dolan on?

Next post: Another outlook at the Knicks’ “high scoring” forward tandem.

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