Burning Q's: Who starts at shooting guard?
August, 22, 2014
By Ian Begley | ESPNNewYork.com
Getty ImagesWho should start at SG: J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert or Tim Hardaway Jr.?With training camp less than two months away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the New York Knicks.
Today’s question: How should Derek Fisher divide minutes among his shooting guards? And who should start at shooting guard?
Unless they make a trade, the Knicks will enter the season with three players who can make a strong case for the starting shooting guard spot: Tim Hardaway Jr., J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert.
Fisher can play one at shooting guard while the others sit on the bench or mix and match combinations of the three guards in the triangle offense, as GM Steve Mills suggested earlier this month.
"That's for the coach to decide. All we've got to do is play," J.R. Smith said Thursday. "Whatever they decide, we've got to just live with it. Hopefully everybody could put their egos aside and come together for one common goal."
That all sounds great and, in the best-case scenario for the Knicks, that would come to fruition.
Still, it will be interesting to see who Fisher chooses to start this season, how he finds time for the other two shooting guards and how the division of playing time impacts each player.
Below, we take a brief look at the pros and cons of each candidate for the starting shooting guard position.
Hardaway Jr.: Hardaway Jr. is one of the top young shooters in the NBA. As we noted in our look at the Knicks' potential lineups, Hardaway Jr. was the most accurate shooter among rookies who made at least 55 3s, knocking down 36.3 percent from long distance.
Hardaway Jr. was inconsistent on defense last year, though. The Knicks allowed 111.8 points per 100 possessions with Hardaway Jr. on the floor, five more than their season average.
Smith: Smith struggled early on last year following offseason knee surgery, but seemed to find his footing in the second half. As we noted in this story on J.R. last month, in the final 43 games of the season (after Smith's second shoelace-related benching), he averaged 16.7 points per game on 45 percent shooting and knocked down 42 percent of his 3-point attempts; in the 31 games prior, Smith hit just 34 percent of his 3s.
One issue with starting Smith is this: Will he be able to bring enough on defense to help compensate for Jose Calderon? Smith ranked 34th among NBA shooting guards in defensive plus-minus last season, which measures a player's on-court impact on defense.
Shumpert: Shumpert may be the Knicks' best defender. Based on history, he's certainly their best defender at shooting guard. Last season, Shumpert put together a defensive plus-minus rating of plus-2.00, which ranked him fourth among shooting guards and first among shooting guards who played at least 25 minutes per game. With Calderon in the back court, the Knicks may need someone like Shumpert to provide help on the perimeter.
Shumpert struggled to find consistency on the offensive end last season. His shooting percentages from the field and from beyond the arc last season were down from 2012-13.
There were 19 games in which Shumpert played at least 25 minutes but scored fewer than six points. So that is one factor to take into account when thinking about Shumpert's usage this season.
Question: If you were Derek Fisher, how would you divide minutes among the Knicks' shooting guards?
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