The Knicks’ Potential Point Guards for 2021-22
Derrick Rose has melded seamlessly into a bench role this season, but the Knicks are still without a permanent starting one-guard. Who should be on their radar this coming offseason?
Who do the Knicks Commit To?
Elfrid Payton has been, at best, a passable point guard throughout his career. That trend was no different this season. The former Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajun (yes, really) averaged 10 points, 3.0 assists and 3.0 rebounds a game, and contributed as effectively as ever on the defensive side of the ball.
However, this is not to say Payton has been infallible for New York. He doesn’t seem to be part of the Knicks’ grand plan surrounding their young core, and his looming free agency this offseason may mean it’s time for a new face. All that being said, the question of exactly who replaces Payton at point is difficult to answer. Without further ado, here are a few options, not in order of preference.
Note: potential free agent signings have already been covered here.
Option #1: Elfrid… Payton?
Tom Thibodeau is a gritty, defensive-minded coach, and Payton is, in many ways, the incarnation of that philosophy. The 2014 winner of the NCAA’s equivalent of the Defensive Player of the Year, Payton can occasionally be a stat-sheet stuffer. His low-profile game, unselfishness and strong rebounding at the point makes him, in many ways, a perfect role-player. However, his lack of a true outside shot hinders his productivity in the modern game.
The Knicks could look to re-sign the veteran this summer, just as they’ve done before. The Knicks actually waived Payton in November, 2020, only to re-sign him to a one-year deal ten days later. It’s clear Payton isn’t picky about his contract, and his toughness at the one is an upside to consider.
Option #2: Derrick Rose
Rose has developed into veritable sixth-man material in the years since his prime. At 32, he’s a wily old sage compared to his days becoming the youngest-ever league MVP. He’s been a terrific mentor to young guards such as R.J. Barrett and Immanuel Quickley, and though his play doesn’t exactly wow the eye like it did a decade ago, Rose is still a solid, dependable option handling the ball for a playoff-bound team.
The issue, however, lies in the fact that Rose is entering free agency this offseason. And, being 32, this may be his last chance to make some serious money. Before committing, the Knicks need to make sure Rose can hold up for however many years he wishes to sign. Although he’s been adequately healthy in recent seasons, his bad knees may get worse with age.
Indeed, re-signing Rose wouldn’t be unadvisable, as a veteran’s touch can be invaluable to a developing team like New York.
Option #3: Immanuel Quickley
Upcoming sophomore Immanuel Quickley should be quite an alright option in a pinch. He’s shown tremendous flashes this season as a scorer, and his shot creation has undoubtedly been a plus. On the other hand, Quickley has looked more like an off-guard at times: his viability as a true distributor is relatively unclear.
Giving Quickley the starting role has the benefit of letting him develop at his own pace, but doing so may also put The Knicks’ competitiveness at risk. Defense and playmaking are essential to winning, and it’s unclear whether young Quickley can offer that. Yet.
Option #4: Luca Vildoza
The name Luca Vildoza may be a new one to many people, but he was one of the best under-the-radar signings of the entire season. An Argentinian by birth, Vildoza most recently played for Baskonia in Spain’s top flight, the Liga ACB. He put up averages of 10 points, 3.5 assists and 1.6 steals in 25 minutes a night—numbers that don’t bounce off the page, but young, unheralded international guards are often surprisingly good.
For example, there’s should-be hall-of-famer Manu Ginóbili, a fellow Argentine, drafted 57th in 1999—try naming the 57th pick this year for practice. Despite this low selection, Manu became one of the most well-respected, innovative, fun-to-watch combo guards of all time. Who’s to say Vildoza, who makes only $3 million next season, won’t be the same given a couple years of top-tier play?
Option #5: The Draft
The Knicks hold the 19th and 21st picks in the upcoming draft. Of course, it’d be a long shot to draft any kind of star in this range, but serviceable guards will be plenty in the water at the Barclays this year. Among those projected at this range are Josh Giddey, Jared Butler and Sharife Cooper.
Giddey would be a stretch, as he could go as high as the late lottery, but the lanky Australian could fall to New York’s first pick. Giddey is a smooth operator in the pick-and-roll, just like countryman Ben Simmons—keep the jokes to a minimum, please. In addition, his combination of size and effort means his defense will be an immediate plus in the NBA.
Jared Butler is a fantastic defender and playmaker—just what the Knicks need—but one detail may prevent him from playing at all. The recent March Madness winner and Final Four Most Outstanding Player is under the NBA’s Fitness-to-Play panel due to a “physical condition.” This ominous diagnosis doesn’t bode well for Butler’s stock, and may prompt teams to skip on the Baylor alum.
Sharife Cooper is another good fit for the Knicks. The Auburn star is a true distributor and a wizard in pick-and-roll sets. He has the upside to be an offensive focal point; however, his stature may make him a liability on the defensive end.
Solution: Just Put Walt Frazier in a Time Machine.
The Knicks have a multitude of options this offseason, but none seem to truly stick out. With Julius Randle‘s future mixed up in Zion business and a basket-full of expiring contracts to rummage through, it’s anyone’s guess who’ll be bringing the ball up in the Garden next season. Heck, it wouldn’t be a shock if Derek Jeter decided to pull a reverse-Michael Jordan and don the old blue-and-orange this fall.
Go to our NBA page for more articles and updates!
“From Our Haus to Yours”