Knicks Point Guard Responds to Fans’ Criticism: ‘It Is What It Is’

Alec Burks

Getty New York Knicks guard Alec Burks during a December 8 game against the Indiana Pacers.

The story of this New York Knicks‘ 2021-2022 season and their shortcomings won’t ever be recalled without the dysfunction that’s been their point guard position.

After bringing in four-time All-Star Kemba Walker and subsequently exiling him, head coach Tom Thibodeau has opted to start veteran Alec Burks, who’s underwhelmed playing out of position.

Over the Knicks’ seven-game losing streak, the 30-year old is averaging 9.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 3.4 assists, while shooting just 34% from the field on 8.0 attempts.

Burks downplayed the criticism (via @NBA_NewYork on Twitter) surrounding New York’s point guard rotation following the team’s latest loss:

I think the way the offense is running, anybody can play the point. I feel like we got a lot of positionless players, Thibs just has me doing it right now…It is what it is.

But whatever “it is” isn’t working.

If the seven-game losing streak isn’t enough, New York’s won only three games over the last seven weeks, and are firmly out of the playoff race–six games back of the 10th-seed Atlanta Hawks.

And whether it’s at point guard or elsewhere, the New York Knicks are bound for change before the season’s end.

Burks is Not the Answer at PG

According to Basketball Reference’s Play-by-Play tracker, Alec Burks’ 403 minutes at point guard this season are his most spent at the position since he was drafted into the league in 2011.

The result has been a stagnant Knicks offense, with the veteran’s hesitance or impatience with his inexperience running an offense flashing every other possession.

Thibodeau said on February 23rd that upon digging into the numbers, he’d concluded that Burks was the team’s best option at point guard.

Yet lineups with the 30-year old at point guard have been some of the team’s worst this season, and analytically, don’t stack up well with the rest of the league.

Per Cleaning the Glass, in the 1,141 possessions the Knicks have played with Burks at point guard, they’re scoring 108.6 points per 100 possessions and allowing 114.7 points per on defense.

Those numbers rank in the 27th and 23rd percentiles respectively; incredibly poor.

New York is 10-15 with Burks in the starting lineup this season. And he’ll be back for the 2022-2023 campaign as a part of the three-year deal he signed with the Knicks last summer.

So even if the team is committed to playing him at point guard moving forward, why not explore their other options over the final 19 games to a season that won’t yield a playoff berth?

Knicks Need to Go Young Down the Stretch

In former draft picks Immanuel Quickley (22) and Miles McBride (21), the New York Knicks have two potential long-term, younger options at point guard.

And in one of them, they’ve got an already-proven candidate who’s garnered trade interest in the past.

When given the opportunity, Quickley’s looked the part of a more-capable point guard than Alec Burks, by a wide margin.

Per Cleaning the Glass, with the Kentucky product at point guard, the Knicks have a (+0.9) net rating in 1,402 possessions.

New York’s also scoring 110.6 points and allowing only 109.7 per 100 possessions, both numbers an improvement (41st and 66th percentiles) over those with Burks.

Prior to the February 10th trade deadline, ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported on his podcast, the Lowe Post, that teams were inquiring about the guard’s availability:

I know the vultures are circling, and they’re getting a lot of calls about Quickley. And I think they’re batting those calls away, as they should. But the vultures are circling, trying to poach somebody from the Knicks, and Quickley’s a name that keeps coming up.

That being said, there’s literally no reason not to hand Quickley the reigns for the season’s final stretch.

If he’s not going to be their long-term fix at point guard but could be someone else’s, why not show them what that looks like, potentially raising his trade value?

As the New York Knicks buckle in for the season’s final 19 games, head coach Tom Thibodeau is going to need to get creative (and young) with his lineups as the losses keep stacking up.

No matter what position that’s at, and whether or not it alters the starting lineup, it’s unlikely that it won’t involve Immanuel Quickley.

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