New York Knicks President Phil Jackson escaped criticism at the trade deadline by staying pat with a mediocre roster.
Phil Jackson has failed as President of the New York Knicks. Even the most foolish of homers can no longer deny that he needs to go and it’s not just about the Carmelo Anthony drama or the Joakim Noah contract. It’s about the fact that Jackson is the latest executive to fail in addressing New York’s greatest area of need.
The Knicks were looking for a point guard long before Jackson took over. The 11-time champion picked up the burden, and after three years on the job, he’s proven incapable of finding the right guy to play the league’s most valuable position.
The breakdown of the Ricky Rubio trade could be a blessing in disguise because every point guard of Jackson’s choosing has been a flop. Let’s take a walk down memory lane. It all started, as it usually does, with the triangle offense.
Let’s take a walk down memory lane. It all started, as it usually does, with the triangle offense.
Jackson thought he had the perfect point guard to run his grand scheme, so he traded incumbent starter Raymond Felton and center Tyson Chandler to Dallas for a package centered around Jose Calderon. Back when Jackson explained his decisions, he explained this deal. The new boss gushed over his new point guard.
“He’s got great control of the ball, pushes the ball up, accelerates it up the court. He’s a very good 3-point shooter. He organizes a team quite well. We anticipate he’ll fit in with what we’re trying to do.”
Jackson made some good points, but notice how he didn’t mention anything about Calderon’s defense. His issues on that end of the court drove New York fans up the wall for the next two seasons.
Calderon is the master of what Walt “Clyde” Frazier calls “matador” defense.
Calderon was an excellent three-point shooter. In his two seasons with the Knicks, he shot 41.4 percent from downtown, but it was on an average of just 1.3 makes per game. The savvy veteran doesn’t turn the ball over. He was third in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio last season, but he only averaged 4.1 assists in 28.1 minutes.
Now that part about Calderon accelerating the ball up the court. Hmm. In the two seasons Calderon ran the offense the Knicks were dead last in drives per game, points in the paint, and fast break points. It was the defense that drove fans crazy.
Jackson traded for Notre Dame prospect Jerian Grant (the antithesis of Calderon) during the 2015 draft to add a point guard who gets to the rim. Unfortunately, Grant wasn’t ready.
He led the team in drives with 3.5 per game, but due to his spotty playing time (16.6 minutes per game), those drives only produced 2.4 points per game (via NBA.com). His three-point struggles (22.0 percent for the season) were the icing on the cake.
Calderon was one of the worst starting point guards in the league due to his lack of offensive production and horrible defense. Grant had proven he wasn’t the point guard of the future.
The Knicks needed an upgrade at the league’s most valuable position, and Jackson was desperate. So he called another desperate team: the Chicago Bulls. Jackson’s old team wanted to dump Derrick Rose even more than the Knicks wanted to dump Calderon. Jackson sweetened the pot with Grant and Robin Lopez, and he had himself a new point guard.
NBA watchers are split on Rose’s season. Some people commend him and say he’s having a resurgence in New York. The former MVP has his highest field goal percentage (.462) since his second year in the league, and he’s third on the team in scoring with 17.7 per game.
Others are killing his defense and exposing his laziness. The three-time All-Star is ranked 83rd of 87 qualified point guards in defensive real plus-minus. The Knicks allow 2.9 points per 100 possessions more with their starting point guard on the floor, and 3.9 points per 100 possessions less when he sits (via NBA.com).
He consistently lets opponents by him with minimal effort and doesn’t fight to get over screens.
The 28-year-old is averaging a career-low in assists (4.5) in a season when he was supposed to be more willing to distribute, and his 2.4 turnovers per game make him 40th of 44 qualified point guards in assist to turnover ratio.
It’s led to a lot of one on one scoring. A whopping 77.5 percent (via NBA.com) of Rose’s made field goals have been on unassisted baskets, and 184 of Rose’s 351 FGM (.524) have been on pick and rolls or isolations.
Jackson signed Brandon Jennings to a one-year deal to be Rose’s backup and insurance in case of injury. Jennings signed a team-friendly deal to be in New York with Jackson expecting him to be the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year. He’s provided a spark off the bench, but the chances of a SMOY Award are slim.
Jennings’ mediocre slash line (.383/.340/.758) is right in line with his career averages, but the Knicks were expecting more than 8.7 points per game. Especially if he’s going to put up 7.5 shots per game.
The Knicks were looking for a point guard before Phil Jackson took over and all indications are that they’ll still be looking for one after he’s gone.