The New York Knicks are currently on a 5-game losing streak. Knicks are also 0-3 against divisional opponents. During this agonizing stretch of New York basketball, Elfrid Payton‘s helplessness against zone defenses has been obvious in the eyes of opposing coaches. The Knicks current starting point guard unfortunately holds the keys to a successful Knicks team. When Payton plays well, the game is so much easier for his teammates. Lead guard is an extremely important position for a NBA basketball team, and Payton’s numbers during the Knicks five game slide shows the importance of a NBA starting point guard.
During the 5-game losing streak, Elfrid Payton is only averaging 2.8 assists per game while playing 29.3-minutes per contest. Payton is also averaging .250 percent from three point territory during the Knicks free fall. His field goal percentage is .373 during the 5-game losing streak. Should Knick fans blame everything on Elfrid Payton? Of course not.
Elfrid Payton’s compatibility with other personnel is very limited due to his struggles with shooting the basketball. Team injuries have taken away shooters in Ntilikina, and Burks for multiple games. Rookie Obi Toppin and veteran Reggie Bullock missed some time as well. Not really many options currently that can take pressure off Elfrid at the moment. Zone defense destroys Knicks current starters. Elfrid, RJ, Randle, and Mitch suddenly become ineffective when opposing teams pack the paint.
Lineup Evaluation Is Ongoing.
Everything is on the table in terms of possible lineup shakeups. With Knicks missing their top three point shooter in Alec Burks, Kevin Knox has stepped his game up. Knox has been playing with inspired energy on both ends of the court. Most importantly, he’s capitalizing on catch and shoot situations. The former Kentucky Wildcat has been making defenses pay from long range once he’s left open. Defenses aggressively trying to run Knox off the three point line allows Knox to attack closeouts and make plays for others, or go strongly to the rim. Transition is another area Knox loves to thrive in. Many fans are looking forward to seeing the 6’9″ forward in the starting line up in order to space the floor. Question is whether or not Knox’s perimeter defense is strong enough for a starting role on a defense first Tom Thibodeau roster. During the 5 game slide, Knox is averaging 10.6-points to go along with .520 percent from three point territory. He’s also grabbing 3.2-rebounds per game during the losing streak while shooting perfect from the free throw line. Knox has been putting up these numbers while playing 22.2-minutes per game.
Immanuel Quickley struggled during the first three games of the losing streak, however, he has come on strong during the last two contests. The backup point guard has been aggressive on both ends of the court. Defenses definitely must respect his three point jumper and this kind of spacing from the point guard position really helps the Knicks offensively. During the last two losses, Quickley averaged 21.0-points per game while shooting .500 percent from the field. The former Kentucky guard shot .462 percent from three point land including .800 percent from the free throw line during the last two games. During the loss in Cleveland, the backup point guard scored his career high 23-points and shot .529 percent from the field. The game drastically changed a few times upon his entry into the game to replace Elfrid Payton who mentally checked out before Thibodeau pulled him. Quickley is making a strong case as Payton’s replacement as lead guard. However, the rookie is still being developed and brought along. He still must get stronger defensively, just like most rookies. When the time is right, Quickley will get his opportunity. The 21-year old rookie still has to earn the starting job, he’s still doing just that.
Austin Rivers could be suffering from minor injuries just like Mitchell Robinson, Reggie Bullock, and Nerlens Noel. Will these nagging injuries affect their games respectively? That remains to be seen. However, when the Knicks get fully healthy, Thibodeau will then possess more weapons when opposing coaches decide to run a zone defense and pack the paint. A healthy Knicks team is much harder to guard. Unfortunately when Elfrid Payton is on the floor with non shooters, Knicks are very easy to guard obviously.
Overall, the New York Knicks have a long season and the losing streak has been painful. However, this team is still off to a strong start to the season with injuries and all. It’s a long season and the Knicks are currently winless against divisional opponents (0-3). It’s crucial for the Knicks to begin winning games within its own division in order to strengthen their playoff chances in the long run. Knick fans must remember it’s a marathon not a sprint.