While many believe Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague would be a perfect fit with the New York Knicks, some believe it would disrupt a few things.
By Skylar Darel
The last few weeks have been a mixed bag for the New York Knicks.
Victories over the Atlanta Hawks (twice), Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, and Utah Jazz have been impressive, but a recent four game losing streak has dropped the Knicks to 22-26, three games outside of the playoff picture.
While making the playoffs was never really plausible heading into the season, the Knicks will still fight to make the postseason.
A consensus among pundits and fans alike is the Knicks lack of an above average point guard. Jose Calderon, the current starter, is a defensive liability and a streaky shooter at best. Backup Jerian Grant has had flashes of promise (link to Celtics highlights), but still has looked overmatched at times.
The NBA is a point guard-driven league. Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry, Damian Lillard… the list of elite point guards in the NBA has been steadily growing over the past few seasons. We are seeing less of an emphasis on big men, and wings, and are focusing on the guys who have the ball in their hands for the majority of the game.
The Knicks are in the clump of teams that have no true number one point guard. Calderon is nothing more than a stopgap, and Grant is, at best, an above average backup. The Knicks have turned to the open market to try and find a starting point guard, one that could reignite their playoff hopes, and one that could be yet another piece in Phil Jackson‘s championship puzzle.
One of the potential options is Jeff Teague of the Atlanta Hawks. According to Fred Kerber of the New York Post, the Knicks have begun “very preliminary” talks with Atlanta regarding their starting point guard.
Kerber also noted that a deal is unlikely, citing a league executive who argued against the trade happening.
“It makes sense for the Knicks, but what do they have to offer?” one opposing executive said. “Teague is a good player under control for a low figure [$8 million] next year and then he’ll enter the richest free-agency period ever.”
The executive makes a good point. What do the Knicks really have to offer? Their are several assets they could scrape together, but none of them are particularly enticing to Atlanta. Arron Afflalo? The Hawks have Kyle Korver, who, despite struggling this season, was an All-Star a year ago. Derrick Williams, Langston Galloway, and Lance Thomas are all good players, but are they enough to bait the Hawks into giving up their starting point guard?
I'd love to hear how the Knicks are going to get Jeff Teague with the non-Melo non-Zinger assets they have. Seriously I am all ears.
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) January 29, 2016
Remember, Atlanta’s backup is German international Dennis Schroeder, who has sat the last two games. Why? Coaches decision. Mike Budenholzer, the reigning NBA Coach of the Year, decided not to play his 22-year old point guard. Now he’s going to let him run the first team’s offense? Unlikely.
The deal makes no sense for the Hawks. The deal, I would argue, also makes little sense for the Knicks.
First, trading for Teague would break up the chemistry of this team. New York have meshed well together on and off the court. Carmelo Anthony has emerged as a true leader of men. Afflalo has become a leader as well. Players like Williams, Robin Lopez, Thomas, and Galloway are all enjoying success, and feeding off the good fortunes of their teammates.
Why break the chemistry? At best, the Knicks will sneak into the postseason as the eighth seed. Fighting for playoff contention in a much more competitive East than in previous years is right where the Knicks should be. By keeping this roster together, they’ll have a chance to build on their success.
If you added another star to this Knicks team– a Durant, or a Westbrook, or a Kawhi Leonard— they’d absolutely be title contenders. They have a very well constructed team, and are pretty deep across the board. They’ve got a star already, in Carmelo. They have a rising star in Kristaps Porzingis. They have other scoring options, such as Afflalo and Williams. They have a rim protector in Lopez.
My point is, this Knicks team isn’t a Jeff Teague away from winning the title. They probably aren’t even a Jeff Teague away from making the postseason. Why force a move to acquire a point guard, when the end result probably doesn’t justify breaking up a pretty solid nucleus.
— NBA On Def Pen (@NBAOnDefPen) January 3, 2016
Additionally, having a very good team and an average point guard gives you a very good shot at winning the title. Look at the last eight title winning teams, and the statistics for their starting point guards.
2015: Stephen Curry: 23.8 PPG, 7.7 APG, 48.7% FG, 28.0 PER
2014: Tony Parker: 16.7 PPG, 5.7 APG, 49.9% FG, 18.9 PER
2013: Mario Chalmers: 8.6 PPG, 3.5 APG, 42.9% FG, 13.3 PER
2012: Mario Chalmers: 9.8 PPG, 3.5 APG, 44.8% FG, 13.0 PER
2011: Jason Kidd: 7.9 PPG, 8.2 APG, 36.1% FG, 14.4 PER
2010: Derek Fisher: 7.5 PPG, 2.5 APG, 38% FG, 9.3 PER
2009: Derek Fisher: 9.9 PPG, 3.2 APG, 42.4% FG, 12.1 PER
2008: Rajon Rondo: 10.6 PPG, 5.1 APG, 49.2% FG, 15.6 PER
Curry is the exception on this list, because he was the league MVP the year he won the title. Parker is also somewhat of an outlier, as he was considered an elite point guard when the Spurs won the title in 2014. But Chalmers, Kidd, Fisher, and Rondo were not, by any stretch of the imagination, elite point guards when their team lifted the Larry O’Brien Championship trophy.
The one common thread with those four? Great players, and great teams surrounded them. Chalmers got to play with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. Kidd got to play with Dirk, as well as one of the best supporting casts in recent memory, anchored by Tyson Chandler, Jason Terry, and Shawn Marion. Fisher was aided by Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Lamar Odom. Rondo played with the original “Big Three” of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen.
Recent history suggests that you don’t need an elite point guard to win the title. You need a good all around team. Adding a floor manager (like Fisher was), a pesky defender (Chalmers), a floor general (Rondo), or a mix of all three (Kidd), is good enough to win the title if the team surrounding them is good enough. With the Knicks, the surrounding team will be, with the addition of another star, good enough.
Do the Knicks need to upgrade at point guard? Yes. Do they need to ship off their assets in order to get Jeff Teague? No.
By keeping the team’s nucleus intact, and chasing a star like Durant this summer, the Knicks could catapult to contender status. By trading for Teague, they’ll continue to do what they’ve been doing the last decade: treading in the waters of mediocrity.