Dan astutely noted last night that the Knicks aren’t in any position to make a trade that upgrades the roster around the margins, owing to the team’s salary distribution and the fact that the supporting players have all underperformed (or are just plain crappy, depending on your viewpoint). Consequently, until Baron Davis shows up (and we’re assuming something there, aren’t we?), the team is going to have to make do with what they have at point guard. Which is virtually nothing.
Toney Douglas has performed well at times as a floor spacer and rudimentary ball handler, but has demonstrated over a fairly large sample that he just doesn’t have the court vision or instincts of a point guard. Douglas struggles with even simply pushing the pace on a consistent basis. He loses focus and walks the ball up on too many possessions even when there are obvious opportunities to get it out to teammates in transition.
Iman Shumpert does a much better job than TD of consistently playing fast–and sees the court a little bit better too– but makes poor decisions in the half court and is surprisingly reluctant to use his athleticism to get into the paint. He may become a competent playmaker someday, but he isn’t one now.
Most importantly, though, neither one, for the life of them, have any idea how to use a ball screen. Both Douglas and Shumpert almost always miss both the roll man and the open shooter off pick-and-roll action resulting in several wasted seconds of dribbling away from the trap, resetting, and ultimately an out-of-rhythm jumper by one of our stars at the end of the shot clock (or, in the worst instances, an offensive foul).
The player who has suffered most by the “point guards'” ineptitude in pick-and-roll play has, of course, been Amar’e–previously an unsolvable problem for defenses across the league but completely shut down by Douglas and Shumpert.
Enter the Jeremy Lin.
I’m not suggesting that Lin is going to be a great player, or even a good one. I’m really not (maybe a little). But in his 26 minutes over the past two games he’s made better use of ball screens than any other Knick guard has over the entire season. COMBINED! EVER!
While Lin has a deceptively quick first step he’s not especially athletic and he’s not a very good perimeter shooter. But what he does have going for him is a nice feel for the pick-and-roll. He understands how to set up a screen, read how it’s being defended, and then at least try to make the right play. He doesn’t always succeed but at least he evinces an understanding of what he’s supposed to do. On this team that makes him a candidate for some minutes.
Here’s what I’d do for now (hopefully Baron plays someday): Over the next few games at the start of second quarters, when the Knicks usually remove Melo and Chandler and play Amar’e at the five to get him matched up on a bigger, slower guy, I’d try putting Lin in there too. Round out the lineup with Douglas, Billy Walker and Jeffries (too bad Jorts is hurt because he’d be perfect for this). Let Lin and Amar’e run some high pick and rolls for six minutes with the other guys spacing the floor and see if this can get Amar’e going. Hell, maybe he can set up a few open looks for Douglas and get him going too. If it doesn’t work, no harm done–the other guys couldn’t do it either. But maybe, just maybe, having a PG who makes good reads off the screen is just what Amar’e needs. Just a hunch I’m basing off his entire career to this point.
My guess is that Lin can eventually develop into a competent backup PG, if someone takes the time to develop him, because his best skill is one that’s so coveted among guards in the NBA. With Amar’e scuffling and the Knicks other options not looking like options at all, why not shake things up and give Lin some run?