Last week, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported that the New York Knicks and Toronto Raptors were in trade discussions involving Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry. The Raptors would receive Raymond Felton, Metta World Peace, and either on of a 2018 first-round pick, rookie Tim Hardaway Jr, or Iman Shumpert. Before the deal can progress any further, the Knicks, under owner James Dolan’s rule, decided to walk away from the trade talks, citing Masai Ujiri’s fleecing in the Carmelo Anthony trade, as well as trepidation in giving up another first round pick.
On the surface, the Knicks are probably making the right decision in not trading for Kyle Lowry. The Knicks have to re-sign Carmelo Anthony this offseason, and giving up one of the three best non-Chandler assets for Kyle Lowry, a free agent in his own right, isn’t the best move. Iman Shumpert is a young wing player, who can shoot from three and defend at an above-average rate. Tim Hardaway Jr. is a rookie whose shooting and athleticism is appealing on a rookie contract. The 2018 first round pick seems far away, but the Knicks don’t have picks in 2014 and 2016, and by keeping the pick in 2018, it would be the first time the Knicks would have their own first round draft pick in three consecutive seasons since their stretch from 1991 to 1993.
That being said, the Knicks could really use an upgrade at the point guard position. Raymond Felton is a bottom tier point guard, and Pablo Prigioni is a decent backup option. If the Knicks can make any upgrades at this point, it’s finding a point guard who can score, as well as controlling the offense from getting too iso-heavy, and ultimately, Carmelo-heavy at times. The Knicks don’t have the assets to get Rajon Rondo, but Lowry has some of those qualities that could make him an upgrade for the Knicks. If the Knicks do make the trade for Lowry, it would make them a better basketball team. Good enough to get out of the massive hole they dug so far? Probably not, but enough to salvage a season with playoff aspirations with a returning Tyson Chandler and Pablo Prigioni coming back.
Here are three ways Lowry can help the Knicks (assuming the Knicks and Raptors agree on the original trade):
Defense: The Knicks are currently ranked 27th in defensive efficiency, but most of those struggles have come from the hand of opposing point guards, as they average 24.1 points, 7.7 assists, and an average PER of 18.2 against the Knicks. When active, Kyle Lowry is one of the better defensive point guards in the league, and inserting him into that lineup does two things defensive. It reduces the previous numbers from opposing point guards, as well as allow the Knicks to use Iman Shumpert against other wing players, as the Knicks also struggle to defend shooting guards, allowing 20.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, and a 15.1 PER, which isn’t great, but it’s currently better than the Knicks shooting guard production.
The only issue with Lowry is his defense in the pick-and-roll, allowing 50% shooting . With Lowry being exactly six-foot, he can get swamped by screeners or big men setting picks. The Knicks, however, can move to Iman Shumpert for that, as Shumpert defends pick-and-roll ball handlers, to the tune of just 40% shooting. Both Shumpert and Lowry can also force turnovers out of those opposing ball handlers, as Lowry forces a turnover on 22.1% of the P&R ball handler plays, while Shumpert forces them at a rate of 19.7%. Placing both Lowry and Shumpert on guards with Chandler in the interior, and I would be shocked if the Knicks couldn’t push their defensive efficiency into the top 15 in the league.
Two Point Guards and Lineup Control: Over the offseason, the Knicks added Andrea Bargnani, Beno Udrih, Metta World Peace, Tim Hardaway Jr., and had to reincorporate Amar’e Stoudemire into their rotation. As a result, head coach Mike Woodson has played multiple lineups, looking to see if one can stick. Now that the Knicks are 7-17, perhaps the Knicks can go back to their bread and butter of two point guard lineups. The trio of Carmelo Anthony, Pablo Prigioni, and Iman Shumpert currently own a defensive rating of 93.8 (via NBA.com’s Media Site) when they’re on the court together, and a net rating of 15.8 overall. Placing Tyson Chandler at the rim, and Lowry as the second point guard, would create an interesting lineup that offers shooting, rebounding, and defense.
Not only would the starting lineup be productive and stable, but it also allows both J.R. Smith and Andrea Bargnani to come off the bench. Smith profiles better as a sixth man, who can change the game, for better or for worst, with his scoring off the bench. As for Bargnani, his defensive ability has hurt the team, so limiting his minutes, while usurping his offensive ability, would better fit the Knicks need. The next set of rotation players (Beno Udrih, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Kenyon Martin) would also benefit from a minutes decline.
The Knicks and Lowry (Current) Fit: Over the last three seasons, at least one story came out about Kyle Lowry not being happy with his role. Both Houston and Toronto had good point guards (Houston had Goran Dragic, while Toronto had Jose Calderon) and that allowed both teams to slash into Lowry’s minutes if he was struggling, or wanted to give the offense a different look. Moving him into New York allows the Knicks to have a talented point guard and allows Lowry to have a starting point guard position to himself for the first time in his career. That, plus the limelight players rightfully or unrightfully receive in New York, should entice Lowry to play at his highest level.
One of the bigger dilemmas the Knicks would have to approach is Lowry’s impending free agency. With Carmelo Anthony’s impending free agency, the Knicks will be tied to plenty of money moving forward, and will probably look to cut corners, in order to maintain a winning roster. That being said, Kyle Lowry could come at a lower price, thanks to the multiple starting point guards around the league. With very few starting point guard jobs open, the Knicks could re-sign Lowry back to a more team-friendly deal, while maintaing some flexibility around Anthony’s massive salary. Currently, Lowry makes 6.1 million dollars per year, and if played correctly, the Knicks could get Lowry back for a deal similar to George Hill’s five-year, 40 million dollar contract, and that would be a decent deal for both the Knicks and Lowry.
In truth, I don’t know what the Knicks should do, because they’re a tire-fire. In all honesty, the Knicks should trade Carmelo Anthony, move Tyson Chandler in the summer, tank for 2015, and after 2016, the Knicks will have all of their draft picks, as well as some young talent. Perhaps then, they can look for the next superstar to land in New York and “save the franchise”. However, dealing with reality, the Knicks are in too deep with Carmelo Anthony, and will put the final nail in the coffin by signing him to a five-year, 125 million dollar contract. If the mantra is ”win now”, then I don’t see a better player the Knicks can sign in free agency better than Kyle Lowry in the next two seasons. It makes sense for the Knicks to be interested in a point guard of Lowry’s talents, pairing him with Carmelo Anthony, and retooling after Stoudemire’s contract is up. I also understand that at some point, maybe it’s best to keep your draft picks, and maybe James Dolan finally realized that.
*Statistical Information provided by NBA.com’s Media Site, MySynergySports, and 82Games.com*