Different ways Knicks can solve their point guard mess

The Knicks’ point-guard situation was a complete mess. Here’s their PG pathways for a better future.

On ESPN’s draft combine show Friday, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said the franchise was seeking to “add shooting — not just 3s, but off the dribble as well, wings and guys who can shoot.’’

The Knicks also desperately need a starting point guard, and that’s going to happen in free agency — with close to $60 million in cap space — or in a blockbuster trade.

In fact, that deal could take place on draft night July 29, with the Knicks giving up three of their four draft picks (19, 21, 32, 58). Thibodeau not only talked about “trading up’’ but “trading out’’ of the draft.

By the time the Knicks’ season ended June 2 with a first-round playoff loss to Atlanta, starting point guard Elfrid Payton had been bounced from the rotation, Frank Ntilikina was glued to the bench, and Derrick Rose was gimpy on a sore knee.

In other words, the Knicks’ point-guard situation was a complete mess. Here are their point guard pathways for a better future:

Trade for Damian Lillard

Their point guard pie in the sky. All eyes are on whether the Trail Blazers will gamble on rookie coach Chauncey Billups or hire a solid veteran offensive mastermind, Mike D’Antoni. If it’s Billups, the reported choice, the speculation could ramp up that the Blazers will be starting anew and the disgruntled Lillard could go on the block. The Knicks, who hired Lillard’s mentor, Johnnie Bryant, as an assistant, would be ready to deliver Portland at least three future first-round picks — perhaps on draft night.

Damian Lillard
Getty Images

Sail Spencer Dinwiddie across the East River

Full of personality, the combo guard spent five years trolling Knicks fans from Brooklyn. It sounded more like jealousy because of the attention the Manhattan franchise merits. Dinwiddie is a slight risk coming off an ACL tear at age 28. The Knicks have interest and can’t imagine the combo guard not wanting to bask in the Garden spotlight and stick it to his former team. Dinwiddie, who averaged 20.6 points and 6.7 assists in 2019-20, is more shooter than playmaker, but that could be as perfect as a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge on a sunny day.

Monitor Jalen Brunson

Let’s get it out of the way: Knicks president Leon Rose loves the son of his first client, ex-Knick Rick Brunson. Rose thinks the younger Brunson is a legitimate starting, playmaking point guard. Now it’s up to Dallas’ new coach, Jason Kidd, to decide whether Brunson, a second-round pick out of Villanova, is the guy to build around and lock in long term. The Mavericks will exercise his team option for next season and can offer him an extension. If Kidd lowballs him, Brunson will decline and the Mavericks will be forced to trade him or risk losing Brunson to 2022 free agency. The Knicks have Brunson on their radar. Thibodeau is a big fan of the lefty quarterback. Rick Brunson was on all of Thibodeau’s prior coaching staffs.

“If the Knicks need a starting point guard, he’s not that guy,’’ one NBA scout said. “For him to be effective offensively, he needs the ball, and it conflicts with Randle. I’d say not a good fit.’’

The former LSU stud just finished the first season of a five-year, $175 million pact that could soon be viewed as untradeable.

“Simmons is a tough one,’’ an assistant GM said. “I still think he is a good player. But it’s hard when your max guy isn’t willing to shoot the ball in the fourth quarter. Or you have to take him out of the game at the two-minute mark so the other team can’t foul him.”

Sign Kyle Lowry to a two-year max deal — with team option

In the past, sources said Lowry — a Philadelphia guy who played at Villanova — wanted to be a Knick. He’s 35, an NBA champion and still can bring shotmaking and playmaking. Don’t discount Lowry re-signing, unless the Raptors draft Gonzaga point guard Jalen Suggs. One league executive said giving more than a one-year guarantee at max money makes for a risk at age 35. “He’s better suited for a title contender — and that’s not the Knicks,’’ one personnel man said.

Take the plunge on Dennis Schroder

He might be more suited as a backup point guard at this stage — in the same vein as Derrick Rose. The German turned down an $84 million extension, so he wants the big bucks. The Post reported in April he’s on the Knicks’ radar.

“I like Schroeder, but don’t like him running the team as No. 1 point guard,’’ an NBA scout said. “I question his leadership and shooting.’’

Schroder is a Thibodeau-type defender.

The current ensemble

Payton will be gone. Ntilikina likely will be, too, as he looks to increase his free-agent value on Team France in the Olympics. Thibodeau will push for a Derrick Rose return at the right price, but new signee Luca Vildoza was added as backup point guard insurance. Vildoza will get to show Knicks fans his worth when he plays in the Olympics for Argentina.

This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Marc Berman

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