The Knicks Wall ‘15-’16 Season Preview: Guards

Say hello to the new New York Knicks backcourt, headlined by rookie Jerian Grant and veteran Arron Afflalo.

Jerian Grant (13) drives to the hoop in a preseason game against the Washington Wizards. (via New York Knicks/FB)

The New York Knicks make their season debut on Wednesday, fresh with a particularly new roster. A season removed from their worst record in franchise history, the new-look Knicks hope to capture a seed in the playoffs with a mixture of high-ceiling youths and battle-tested veterans.

Here is our take on what to expect from the guards —

Brendan Duball, writer:

(via USA Today)

Remember when Raymond Felton and Landry Fields played solid chunks of minutes for the Knicks? Yeah me neither, I like to block bad memories from my conscious.

I do miss Pablo Prigioni though.

Whatever, this year will arguably be the deepest at guard position for the Knicks in a long time.

Jose Calderon was massively disappointing last season. We expected a replication of his decent 2013–2014 season with the Mavs him last season, but ended up getting the weird knock-off Wal-Mart Great Value version of him. He’s one of the better perimeter shooters in this guard class and is more experienced at the profession level than most, but I would be surprised if he’s still the first team PG in December.

Let’s state the obvious; literally every Knicks fan wants Jerian Grant to start over Jose Calderon, he runs in transition better, attacks the paint better, is far more athletic than any guard the Knicks have had in recent years and he just has it.

Jerian Grant is the player that I’m most excited to watch this year in the guard position by far. At 23 years old, we won’t have to wait through the development phase with Jerian; he should be able to contribute immediately on both ends of the floor. We’ve seen him make some impressive drives to the bucket this preseason, but I’m mostly looking forward to his court vision.

Dime after dime. Did you know he dished out 690 assist during his career at ND? Get excited.

Langston Galloway is a guy who I think doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Gallo averaged 13.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists per 36 minutes last year and showed he can play clutch minutes in the closing minutes of games. He won’t be starting this year, so it’s very unlikely he matches his production last year, but his maturity and stout defense will be very important off the bench.

One of the Knicks ‘prized’ free agent acquisitions and buddy of Carmelo, Arron Afflalo, should start right away at the 2-guard. Coming off one his worst seasons shooting wise (42.3%), Afflalo has to be the second scoring option right away. A true versatile scorer, Afflalo has the ability to post up and stretch the floor. If he can stay healthy, which he hasn’t already, I’d expect him to be a 15 PPG kinda guy.

Also, apparently he sold bootleg Jay-Z CD’s to Kendrick Lamar in his high school years so basically he’s going to win MVP this year.

There’s been a ton of Sasha Vujacic slander on Twitter during the preseason, much of it being well-deserved. For some strange reason, I think Vuj could be the dark horse of this guard class. He can either be that high percentage perimeter shooter off the bench which the Knicks so desperately need or he can be a toned-down version of JR Smith with terrible shot selection. If it counts for anything, he’s been a good mentor for Kristaps, so he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

Travis Trice was fun to watch at Michigan State under Tom Izzo during their March Madness runs, but the guy is tiny. Likely headed to Westchester.

Reid Goldsmith, writer:

(via ESPN)

You would think with the little depth of guards on this team there would not be too many rotation questions. However, that’s exactly what’s going on with the Knicks entering the season.

Who starts and who plays with whom? Why is Jose Calderon so slow and negative billion on defense? How will Jerian Grant factor in the game during his rookie season?

Grant has impressed in the preseason while Calderon? Not so much. Calderon is a severe liability on defense and being injury-prone may thrust Grant into a starting point guard position.

At the 2-guard spot, Afflalo is a lock to start but it should be interesting how Coach Fish utilizes All-Rookie Second Team Langston Galloway. I think we’re going to see a lot of Grant-Galloway backcourt time, especially in the second unit.

Finally, I’m concerned about veteran Sasha Vujacic’s role in the rotation. Obviously Phil and Fish think highly of their former player and teammate, but Knicks fans want to see the younger, greater upside guys have a larger role than Vujacic. He provides a strong shot and should be considered reasonably reliable off the bench, but should not be taking time or the ball from the younger guys the franchise is trying to build around.

Peter Saclarides, writer:

(via NY Post)

The Knicks made small, but significant improvements to the backcourt in the offseason. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Alexey Shved are gone, but they’ve been replaced with 19th overall pick Jerian Grant and free agents Arron Afflalo, and Sasha Vujacic.

Afflalo has shown in his many years in the league that he can be a reliable scoring option, and defender, but with the nagging hamstring injury he’s suffered throughout preseason, his play at both ends could be fairly limited.

Jerian Grant was excellent at Notre Dame, and in preseason, has gelled well with the second unit, especially with Galloway.

Vujacic is just a pest on the court. His annoying style of defense forces opponents to always be aware when handling the ball and his presence on the court clearly calms the younger guards.

The guards who remained on the roster from last year, Jose Calderon, and Langston Galloway, are two different stories. Gallo is a young guard, capable of scoring off the bench, while Calderon is getting older, and during last season, and preseason, has struggled to contribute as he did in previous years.

The guard position could very well be the Knicks’ poorest unit, with Melo at the 3, and the frontcourt much deeper than last year’s, but if New York’s guards can play decently enough this year, and stay healthy, they could be a main reason for a Knicks run at the Eastern Conference Playoffs.

Anthony Corbo, writer/social:

(via ESPN)

The preseason’s a weird time for basketball. Players often aren’t in the game long enough stretches to get into a solid groove, players on Training Camp Invite contracts are given more minutes than they’d likely ever seen in the season, and every year there’s a player who rapidly emerges from obscurity to try and seal his place in the rotation (Derrick Williams this year, my personal favorite case being Ronaldo Balkman in 2011.

First off, let’s take a look at the guards who remain on the roster. Returning from last year are Jose Calderon, Langston Galloway, and…nobody else. (Sadly, Alexy Shved took off faster than Kyrie bolted from Coach K. We hardly knew thee.)

This isn’t all bad, considering that the talent and experience acquired in the offseason outweighs any chemistry those players put together. (I assure you, this is true. At this point I’d rather start a 73 year-old Willis Reed at the two and have him put up four a game from deep than ever watch THJ struggle/ball-stop from deep again.)

Without further ado (I swear), your new guards are: Arron Afflalo of Denver/Orlando/Portland fame, Jackson favorite during his Lakers years: Sasha Vujacic, and co-franchise savior (s/o Kristaps) Jerian Grant.

Okay, okay, I get it. I wouldn’t want any of those guys playing two-on-two against Steph and Klay either, but still I’m excited. Calderon and Afflalo (before reinjuring that hammy) looked good in the finale against Boston. Calderon probably had his finest game in a Knicks uniform, putting up 17 points and grabbing 8 boards.

I’m in favor of these two starting. Let’s not forget that Jose was once a 50–40–90 player (the basketball IQ necessary to pull that off doesn’t disappear with a few injuries), and Afflalo knows Melo’s game very well.

Not only that, but having a capable shooter and defender next to Calderon will take a TREMENDOUS amount of pressure off of him, it’s a luxury he’s not been afforded yet during his Knicks tenure. Also, I think Afflalo midrange jumper is a good fit in whatever version of the Triangle offense Fisher will running and will allow Calderon a lot more open looks from deep.

However, we’re speaking ideally here. Ideals are exactly the opposite of injuries, and you know who’s bodies like getting injured? Jose Calderon (42 games last season) and Arron Afflalo (played in just two preseason games, out for the first two weeks of the season). Luckily, these two do not necessarily have to be on the court to make a difference.

Rookie Jerian Grant and second-year pro Langston Galloway are young combo guards loaded with potential who are expected to lead a much faster, hyper-athletic second unit that will likely also feature Cle Early, Derrick Williams, and Kyle O’Quinn. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I don’t envision Afflalo or Calderon on the next great Knicks team (they’re both on the other side of 30, and though they’re still more than capable players, their primes are behind them), but I would love to see Grant and Galloway there.

Speaking of Vujacic (another one over the 30 hump), I don’t expect him to see significant time. He’ll likely be in the starting lineup as an injury replacement to Afflalo in a very smart move by Derek Fisher to begin building the Grant–Galloway chemistry sooner rather than later, but this won’t be his role for long.

He’s here to communicate Fisher and Jackson’s ideals to the team and be living testament that it works (2009, 10 NBA Champion with the Lakers), and is of the crop of player-assistant coaches (see: Jason Kidd–2013, Derek Fisher–2014) that are becoming more prevalent in today’s NBA (see: Jason Kidd–2014, Derek Fisher–2015). In fact, if I may make a bold(ish) prediction, I fully expect him to be waived and added to Fisher’s staff by the all-star break in favor of a younger wing for the franchise to groom.