Isiah Thomas knows how important a starting point guard is to a team with a championship mentality. As the floor general for the 1980s Pistons, he led them to back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990.
The former Knicks coach made that point on Miami radio's "The Sid Rosenberg Show" on Thursday when asked about the Knicks. In fact, Thomas questioned the team amnestying Chauncey Billups to acquire Tyson Chandler, which dimmed any hope for Chris Paul.
"The guard play right now in the NBA is off the charts," Thomas said. "Losing Chauncey, I thought he brought a veteran leadership to the team. His savviness and guard play has always been severely undervalued. Detroit found that out when they let Chauncey go. I think there was a certain amount of leadership to what he brought to [the Knicks] last year."
With Mike D'Antoni catching a lot of flack for his team's early-season blunders, Thomas defended the head coach for no other reason than ... point guard.
"If you don’t have great guards, it's hard to put together a game plan," he said. "You're only as good a coach as your guards.’’
Thomas may have a point. That's especially evident with how Amare Stoudemire is playing. In the past, he's always executed the pick-and-roll with a standout starting point guard, from Stephon Marbury to Steve Nash (in Phoenix), and to Raymond Felton (in New York last season). Now he's tag-teaming with a B-tier point guard in Toney Douglas, which is hindering his game.
Currently, the Knicks are tied for 23rd in the NBA in assist percentage this season, a slight downturn from last year. Specifically, Stoudemire averaged more points and a higher shooting percentage playing with Felton compared to Douglas. Here's a breakdown:
Stoudemire With Felton Vs. Douglas Per 36 Minutes
*Shots taken inside the restricted zone in the paint around the basket
Source: ESPN Stats & Info
Stoudemire's higher free throw attempts playing with Felton suggests the pick-and-roll was more effective; therefore, he was in better position to draw contact closer to the basket. Now, playing with Douglas, Stoudemire is attempting about two fewer shots in the restricted zone. This statistic supports the scouting reports that describe Douglas as more of a scoring point guard who has trouble setting up his teammates, especially Stoudemire.
Can you say, "Baron Davis?" At least this season.
Do you agree with Thomas' point guard argument? Looking back on it, would you have amnestied Billups to acquire Chandler? Click here to read about Chandler's early impact on the Knicks.
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