Mar 30, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; New York Knicks guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (5) reacts against the Golden State Warriors in the fourth quarter at Oracle Arena. The Knicks won 89-84. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

New York Knicks: Who should start at SG?

While many experts have counted out the New York Knicks as contenders for the 2014-2015 NBA season, that does not mean they have a lack of depth of impact players. This is especially true in the backcourt, as almost their entire bench is made up of guards.

While the starting point guard is all but set to be Jose Calderon, acquired from Dallas last month, the 2 guard position is up in the air.

At this point, there seems to be three logical options for the said position: J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Tim Hardaway Jr. Below are each of their stat averages per 36 minutes for the 2013-2014 season.


J.R. Smith 

USA Today Sports

Games Started: 37

Points: 15.9

Field Goal Percentage: .415

Three-Point Field Goal Percentage: .394

Free-Throw Percentage: .652

Assists: 3.3

Rebounds: 4.4

Steals: 1.0

Blocks: 0.3

Iman Shumpert

Mandatory Credit: Jim O

Games Started: 58

Points: 9.1

Field Goal Percentage: .378

Three-Point Field Goal Percentage: .33

Free-Throw Percentage: .746

Assists: 2.4

Rebounds: 5.7

Steals: 1.7

Blocks: 0.2


Tim Hardaway Jr.

USA Today Sports

Games Started: 1

Points: 15.8

Field-Goal Percentage: .428

Three-Point Field Goal Percentage: .363

Free-Throw Percentage: .828

Assists: 1.3

Rebounds: 2.3

Steals: 0.8

Blocks: 0.1


Based off purely stats, I would choose Hardaway Jr. in a heartbeat to be the Knicks starter at shooting guard.

Last season, he averaged more points per 36 minutes than either Smith or Shumpert, while shooting at a better clip from the field as well.

Although Carmelo Anthony, who re-signed with New York for $122 million over five years, is clearly the team’s primary scorer, they lack a strong second option after him.

Hardaway is quite capable of filling that role though, which will also allow Carmelo to cut down on the amount of isolation shots he attempts. While he did lead the league in iso points last season, there were also plenty of times when Carmelo playing in isolation cost the Knicks- such times included in the final seconds of a game, when he felt forced to put up a wild shot attempt at the buzzer, because there were a lack of capable shooters around him.

Hardaway Jr. is further deserving of a starting role this upcoming season to due the fact that he established himself as a more than reliable NBA player right out of the gate. He appeared in the Rising Stars Game during All-Star Weekend and following the season was named as a member of the All-Rookie first team. Clearly, he did not let his relatively low draft slot (24th overall selection) derail his play on the court.

As for the other two players, Shumpert and Smith, there are several arguments to be made against them, which ultimately should regulate them to a sixth man type of role.

Shumpert is coming off a season in which he posted career low averages in points and field goal percentage, although he did manage to play in a career best 74 games. To be fair, his “career lows” are within a small sample size, because he’s only been in the league for three seasons so far, but nonetheless it was clear that he struggled throughout much of the Knicks nightmare season.

On seven different occasions, Shumpert was held scoreless, despite playing at least thirteen minutes in each of those contests. On the contrary, he showed flashes of brilliance, most notably the Knicks first two games of the new calendar year, when he dropped 27 and 26 points on consecutive days at San Antonio and Houston. His defense was always above average, and he did not have trouble racking up steals, but the way the team is currently constructed, defensive minded wings are better suited for the bench, at least as of right now.

In addition, Shumpert suffered a season-ending ACL injury during the 2012-13 season, so logging extra minutes could be costly for his season, if not his career, if he were to suffer another similar injury, which could be prevented by less time running up and down the hardwood. Lastly, Shumpert’s impact as a reserve player last season was far more positive for the team compared to when he was a starter. His +/- of 10.2 as a reserve easily bested his mark of 3.9 as a starter.

Smith, meanwhile, is an even easier case to argue for regulating to a sixth man / bench role.

Coming solely off the pine during the 2012-13 season, Smith won NBA Sixth Man of the Year honors. However, last season, when he was in the starting lineup for 37 games, his play took a hit. His points per 36 minutes dropped by almost four points, while is shooting percentage slightly dipped as well.

Ever since he came to the Knicks, he was been known as the guy who seems to make the most impossible of shots, yet this reputation only goes so far into making him a solid player for the Knicks. His on-court basketball issues were further worsened by his off-court trouble and on-court antics. To begin the season, Smith was suspended for five games due to possession of an illegal drug (knowing the lifestyle that J.R. lives, though, this is not surprising in the least).

He also made headlines by making foolish decisions when the clock was not running during games. A prime example of Smith’s foolishness occurred when he untied his opponents shoelaces, while standing next to them during free-throws. He complained at the beginning of the season of not being a starter, yet when he was given that privilege, he did not come through. A permanent move back to the bench for J.R. would give him the mindset again that enabled him to win Sixth Man of the Year just two seasons ago. Maybe that is all the motivation he needs to succeed once again, because it seemed as if once he became a starter, his drive for greatness wore off.

Besides these aforementioned shooting guards, the Knicks have a number of other young guards at their disposal, including Shane Larkin and Wayne Ellington. They all have tons of potential, but will have to prove themselves this season before their role in New York can be expanded, especially because many of them are first-time Knicks.

As for the New York “veterans” (who are still very young players anyways), I believe that Hardaway Jr. will give the Knicks the greatest chance to win this season, if he is starting at shooting guard.

Many experts and fans have casted doubt on the Knicks championship odds for 2015, but if Hardaway and the rest of the roster can step into their given roles, don’t be surprised to be watching a parade down the Canyon of Heroes next June.


Tags: Iman Shumpert JR Smith New York Knicks Tim Hardaway Jr

  • Speaksnow

    I know everyone is in love with Hardaway. He may develop to be a well rounded player, but he wasn’t last year. He was a one trick pony, spot up shooter. He didn’t have many assists or rebounds. His shooting stats we’re very close to Smith’s, and actually even closer to Smith’s career stats. Give Jax and Fisher a third of the season with the most talented line up. In my opinion that includes Smith.

    • mados123

      I agree with you regarding Smith getting the nod (especially considering how well he played last year when starting vs. coming off the bench). But saying Hardaway is a one trick pony doesn’t accurately describe what he brings to the offense via breakaways and his occasional, off-the-dribble moves. And I wouldn’t think a shooting guard being a spot-up shooter is a bad thing, especially with the triangle offense. Otherwise you have someone dribbling around trying to make something happen by themselves, and it’s usual unsuccessful in winning games. Just look at the Knicks record last year.

      • Speaksnow

        I agree, H did show some explosiveness. What I missed was rebounds from a realatively big off guard, and almost no assists, not to mention questionable D. I guess I just didn’t see what the press was raving about. I hope he has a great Knick career, because I love my team.

        • mados123

          All valid points on your part but, as you know, everything you mentioned doesn’t make the video highlights like one of H’s reverse jams. His tenacity is what sets him apart and during the summer league, his D already looks different and more aggressive going chest-to-chest with the man with the ball – it looks like Fisher is making his mark. Let’s just hope he has the quick feet to recover into position when needed. I hear you re: the Knicks as I have the same sentiments. This year looks like it is going to be exciting!

  • fy23

    It’s all about the triangle… u need that backup plan in case the system breaks down and his shots may be ugly, but when he gets going JR can still swish and is at least able to create his own shot… I would start Shump for his lockdown D and bring in TH3 to get offense going… u could use Hardaway at the 3 if need be to space the floor as well cuz he long enough to put a hand in someone’s face and can drain the 3…

    Real question is how will STAT or Barngiani stop someone from dunking in their face if using them at the 5?

  • Brotato Chip

    The stats say JR averages more points…

    • Nathan

      Yes. But he also played a lot more. So per 48 minutes, hardaway would average more. Thats what the author is saying

      • Johnny Tsunami

        Hardaway sucks

      • Big Mike

        If jr played without melo on th floor per 48 he would avg way more then Hardaway.

  • Anwar Khattab

    Well since chalderon is starting, hardaway or jr at the 2 is suicide. Shump starting is a no brainer. +9 points out him with the addition of how many points he prevents opposing guards actually means he creates the most point differential out of all the guards for the knicks.

  • Steve Nathan

    So let me see if I have this right. You want THJr to start based on the stats of one game he started? The Stats are very close, so I would look to other factors. How about the fact that JR and Shump both play better defense (At least at this point ) than THJr. If Calderon is the starting point…someone in the backcourt will have to play D.
    JR is better at getting his own shot. If his head is in the game and he works at developing whatever BBIQ he has learned over the years, I think he will be the starter. If he doesn’t use his head as much as his athleticism, he will be gone.

    • alex horowitz

      I did say I would choose Hardaway Jr. based off “purely stats”, but I went on to give several other reasons in favor of Hardaway, that were not statistics-related, such as the fact that the Knicks need another shooter alongside Carmelo.

      To think I picked THJ based off just one start is not accurate at all.

      • Steve Nathan

        Hi Alex. Thank you for taking the time to answer my reply. Here are the comments I took from your article that had me reply in the first place:

        “Based off purely stats, I would choose Hardaway Jr. in a heartbeat to be the Knicks starter at shooting guard.”

        “As for the other two players, Shumpert and Smith, there are several arguments to be made against them, which ultimately should regulate them to a sixth man type of role.”

        Here are the issues I have with your article:
        1.) The Knicks played horrible team defense last year. It also impacted their offense as well as they did not have many fast break points and played an iso-Melo based offense. I believe this version of the Knicks will play aggressive team defense. Whether THJr. can up his defensive game this quickly is yet to be determined. Both Shump and JR at this point are ahead in defensive ability, though that is certainly something THJr can change.

        2.) Last year both JR and Shump were coming off knee injuries. At the beginning of the year you could see how it impacted their games. I believe that they should both be healthier this year. I also believe that JR will want to succeed with this team and will have to play smarter than he has. He has immense talent. Up to this point nobody has gotten more out of him than Coach Woodson. Is it possible that the Phillet o’ Fish team can raise his play to an even greater level?

        3.) Everything regarding this team is still a fluid situation, and we have no idea if those three will still be on the team once the season starts. I still see a weakness in the point guard position. While Calderon is an upgrade over Felton on the offensive side of the ball, there is still a need for a great young 2-way point guard to be developed. Is it going to be Larkin? I don’t think so. They have way too many bodies and not enough of the type players they want yet. There will be changes and we probably have to send out more bodies than we take back. There has been talk of packaging a couple guys for a big man, but I would look to trade assets for a young point guard to develop under Calderon. I really wanted to see the Knicks grab Jordan Clarkson from Missouri. Maybe we can work a trade with the Lakers to get him.

  • Charles

    Jr Smith when he is in the starting line-up there a better team. He lead all guards in assist and he rebounds and people respect JR because they know he can go for 30 any night. He played the best all around of all the players last year. When he started they won 16 of the last 20. Stat Should also start.

  • Big Mike

    JR Smith will be the starter . He was injured most of last year but at the end he was consistently putting up 20 points a game 4 assists and 5 boards thats an allstar . He dropped 30 on Lebron only a couple player can say they did that. Hardaway is strictly a scorer not well rounded enough . Shump is good off the bench as a lock down defender. All of the above will see time at point because Phil likes to use a 2 at the 1 ala Ron Harper.