Every weekday throughout the season, ESPNNewYork.com will tackle a burning question about the Knicks in our "Opening Tip" segment.
Today's Burning Question: How concerning is the Knicks' starting point guard situation from an offensive standpoint heading into the playoffs?
Defensively, the Knicks are fortunate to have a defensive disruptor on opposing point guards in Iman Shumpert. Without him, if the Knicks want to get through the East and West's top two seeds, the Bulls and Heat, and Spurs and Thunder, respectively, they would have a much more difficult time.
That's because those teams feature point guards Derrick Rose (Bulls), Tony Parker (Spurs), Russell Westbrook (Thunder), and LeBron James and Dwyane Wade (basically two for the Heat). Not only can they go for 30 points on any night, but they can also establish a balanced scoring attack, where each of their starting five teammates can reach double-digit scoring.
While not every team has a point guard on the caliber of those guys, having one who's young, healthy and, above all, an effective scoring playmaker is key. The Knicks simply don't have that right now with a semi-healthy Baron Davis and a slower Mike Bibby, who's more of a glorified shooting guard at this point in his career. Their answer, Jeremy Lin, is out until likely the second round of the playoffs.
Currently, with Carmelo Anthony playing so ridiculously well since March 26 (when Lin and Amare Stoudemire became inactive), averaging 30.6 points per game on 50.5 percent shooting, the Knicks have been able to get away a little with not having Lin in the lineup. But let's say Melo has an off night? What happens?
Outside of Anthony and Tyson Chandler, there's been hardly any other scoring in the starting lineup in the Knicks' past three games -- two of them against the lockdown Heat and Celtics. There's a lack of balance right now, and that goes back to that point guard. Teams like the Bulls, Heat, Spurs and Thunder can hurt you in many different ways because of their All-Star floor general. And they know how to beat the best defensive teams -- an extra punch the Knicks could use.
While Steve Novak and J.R. Smith have added a huge layer of offense off the bench, hitting 45.3 and 45.2 percent of their 3-pointers since April 3, respectively, Mike Woodson knows they'll be challenged more looking ahead.
"As we go along, those shots will become tougher because teams watch tape and they're not going to leave him," he said. "So we've just got to find ways that we can get him good looks and hope that he's open."
A player like Lin would sure help Novak and Smith maintain what they've been doing. For now, the Knicks better hope Anthony continues to have monster games, because when he's on, more attention is paid to him and the court opens up a bit more. Against the Celtics, Melo was able to collect 10 assists, but after him, the rest of the starting five only had four of them.
The moral of the story is this: Until Lin returns, Anthony will have to do a little bit of everything to keep the Knicks in it. Ironically, Mike D'Antoni wanted him to be his point-forward at the start of the season. Now that has to happen consistently.
How concerned are you about the Knicks' starting point guard situation from an offensive standpoint heading into the playoffs? Leave us your comments below.
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