Phil Jackson will have to wait to get the point guard he wants to lead his team as head coach until Derek Fisher and Oklahoma City are eliminated from the playoffs.
But Jackson could find out a little more about the future of his team's starting point guard, Raymond Felton, very soon.
New York Knicks
Felton is due back in court Monday for felony weapons possession. Pending the outcome of his case, the NBA could suspend Felton. The Knicks could also explore options to void his contract. None of this will make it any easier to trade Felton, who has two years left on a four-year, $15 million deal.
So how can the Knicks improve, if at all, at point guard? Let’s look at three possible options:
1. Trade Felton: Striking a deal would obviously benefit the Knicks, but trading Felton will be awfully difficult. Besides his legal case, Felton is coming off a poor season in which he averaged a career-low 9.7 points per game. He also averaged 5.6 assists and 39.5 percent shooting in 65 games.
Jackson will earn a good deal of his salary if he somehow finds a taker for Felton. We'll see if Jackson can pull off any magic as an executive.
2. Explore the free-agent market: Jackson won’t have many options on the free-agent market considering the Knicks’ cap limitations.
As our Ian Begley points out, the Knicks are projected to be over the cap even if Carmelo Anthony leaves via free agency, with both Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani expected to exercise their player options.
That means the Knicks likely will have only the taxpayer’s midlevel exception (starting at $3.3 million for up to three seasons) and the standard veteran’s minimum contract to work with.
Among the point guards expected to be available via free agency this summer are Kyle Lowry, Shaun Livingston, Jerryd Bayless, Steve Blake, Luke Ridnour, Devin Harris, Jordan Farmar, Ramon Sessions, Earl Watson and Patty Mills.
Forget about Lowry, who will look to command much more after a breakout season.
Livingston, who would appear to be a great fit based on Jackson’s history of having a 6-foot-7 versatile defender who can also work in the post, is likely also out of the Knicks' price range. Even if Livingston doesn't find a market for him above the $3.3 million midlevel, he would likely return to the Nets for the same amount.
As Begley points out in the Knicks’ potential free-agent targets gallery, Blake seems to make sense, considering he has played in Jackson’s triangle offense.
We’ll have to see how much $3.3 million can get Jackson, since the Knicks need help in as many spots as they can get. But if Fisher ends up becoming the Knicks’ next coach, he will want and need a point guard who can help him teach the triangle and execute his vision.
3. Get in-house help: If Felton can continue playing and the Knicks can't unload him, the 'Bockers must hope Felton returns motivated and inspired for a bounce-back season.
Meanwhile, Pablo Prigioni, a savvy veteran who can provide outside shooting, is still under contract. But the Knicks need to upgrade at point and add someone familiar with Jackson's system.
The Knicks did sign two vets late in the season who might be able to help. Shannon Brown and Lamar Odom both played for Jackson and know the intricacies of the triangle. They were teammates with Fisher, and if both are in camp this fall, they could aid Fisher or whomever Jackson hires as the next head coach.
Odom is versatile enough to be a point-forward type, but it remains to be seen how much he has left. He is a low-risk move, so if he can contribute, he could help the Knicks if they don’t land a more conventional point guard.
In the triangle, Jackson often put the ball in the hands of his best scorer, so the Knicks might be able to get by without a playmaking point guard.
Still, Jackson needs to upgrade at the position, which could be affected by Felton’s legal issues next week.
Put on your GM cap and tell us how you think the Knicks can improve at point guard.