NBA fans around the world: rejoice. The 2016-17 NBA season is quickly approaching. Over a five week span, Last Word On Pro Basketball will provide a breakdown of the New York Knicks roster, looking at a different position each week. In this edition, we take a look at the shooting guards.
New York Knicks Roster Breakdown: Shooting Guards
There is one word that describes the shooting guards that have recently been on the Knicks roster. That word is inconsistent. First, it was J.R. Smith. He was not only inconsistent from season to season, but from game to game as well. Smith could shoot the team into a game just as fast as he could shoot them out of one. Then came along Tim Hardaway Jr. He was able to put up 30 points in a game just as easily as he’d score five points. Both of these players have been traded in the past couple years. Finally, veteran Arron Afflalo was brought in to be a complementary scorer to New York’s star, Carmelo Anthony. Afflalo may have been the most inconsistent and disappointing player on the Knicks roster last season. Just like at point guard, New York decided to retool the shooting guard position during the off-season.
Starter: Courtney Lee
New York signed Courtney Lee to a four-year, $48 million contract in the off-season. He is currently the only guard on the Knicks roster under contract beyond this season. The 6’5″, 200 lbs eight-year veteran comes in as arguably the team’s best perimeter defender. Lee has been a journeyman over his NBA career. Going into his ninth season, New York is Lee’s seventh team.
Lee has averaged 9.6 points, 1.6 assists, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.0 steals per game since being selected 22nd overall by the Orlando Magic in the 2008 NBA Draft. Those numbers should not be considered setting the league on fire. But, because of the other transactions that were made, New York does not need that type of player at shooting guard. Lee is a career 38.4 percent three-point shooter. The Knicks do need a consistent “3 and D” player, and that’s why they brought in Lee.
Primary Back-up: Justin Holiday
Justin Holiday is considered by many to just be a throw-in player from this off-season’s Derrick Rose trade. However, Holiday has the ability and physical stature to be a consistent contributor off of New York’s bench. Holiday’s 6’6″, 185 lbs frame allows him to play either the shooting guard or small forward positions, depending on the match-up. Like Lee, Holiday is also a journeyman. The Knicks will already be his fifth NBA team, despite next season being only his fourth in the league.
Holiday is the younger brother of New Orleans Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday. The 27-year-old wing had his best statistical season last year. His 6.5 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.7 steals, and 43.3 three-point percentage were all career highs. Holiday has one year remaining on his current contract. The 2016-17 season could be a breakout year for Holiday as he tries to earn his next deal.
Third String: Sasha Vujacic
This spot on the depth chart is usually reserved for a young, raw project player looking to earn playing time. In some cases, though, this spot can be filled by an experienced veteran who is brought in to mentor the younger players on the team. Sasha Vujacic was re-signed for that purpose. Last year, he helped rookie Kristaps Porzingis transition to the NBA. This season, he will have the chance to take incoming rookies Guillermo Hernangomez and Mindaugas Kuzminskas under his wing.
Vujacic was a two-time NBA champion playing under Phil Jackson — the coach — for the Los Angeles Lakers. His knowledge of Jackson’s triangle offense is another reason he is on the roster. As long as things go as planned, Vujacic should not see as much playing time as he saw last year. He averaged 14.9 minutes per game in his 61 games during the 2015-16 season. At times, Vujacic played with more fire and passion then anyone on the team. If the other guards struggle and the Knicks need a spark, they may just end up turning to Vujacic.
With the way that this Knicks roster is built, they do not need their shooting guard position to have a dominant scorer. All they need out of the position is consistency.