As Kurt noted earlier today, Jonathan Abrams of the New York Times reported that the Knicks are looking for backup point guard help on the cheap, in order to keep Raymond Felton as rested and healthy as possible.
That news immediately calls the future of Toney Douglas to the forefront of the conversation. Douglas ran the point for the Knicks at times last season, manned the 1 at the Vegas Summer League, and indeed, does supply some minutes behind Felton. However, those concerned that the addition of another point guard would bury Douglas in the rotation need not worry; while the knowledge of the Knicks’ interests does give us a solid read on Mike D’Antoni’s opinion of Douglas’ playmaking skills at present, it’s hardly a death sentence for New York’s young scoring guard.
According to 82games.com, the lineups in which Douglas is used most frequently used actually feature Felton running the point with Douglas as the off guard. In fact, Douglas is currently using 26% of the Knicks’ shooting guard minutes, compared to just 20% of the available point guard minutes. While that playing time at PG is sure to decrease or even disappear altogether should the Knicks find their suitable backup, Douglas will still log minutes in the backcourt and could conceivably see his time at shooting guard increase. Abrams’ report detailed that the Knicks may be open to moving swingman Bill Walker, and if Walker does end up as an outgoing component in any trade, that would free up an additional 15% of the Knicks’s shooting guard minutes for players like Douglas to claim.
It’s possible that Douglas’ overall minutes could take a slight dip if the team no longer needs him to take care of ball-handling/playmaking responsibilities, but he’d also be freed up to create for himself without having to worry about triggering the offense.
If Douglas’ underground supporters in NYC should be worried about anything, it’s the eventual return of Kelenna Azubuike. Azubuike was once considered the favorite to start for the Knicks at the 2, but a bum knee has prevented him from playing any games thus far this season. Azubuike continues to recover and rehab, and once he’s ready to make his Knicks debut, he’ll surely take a slice of everyone’s minutes at shooting guard. Douglas’ playing time should more or less be safe until then (even if his responsibilities change slightly), but Azubuike poses a real threat of pushing Douglas down a peg in the rotation.