Knicks Mock Free Agency 3.0: A cost-efficient solution at point guard

The New York Knicks are reportedly “aggressively pursuing” both Damian Lillard in a blockbuster trade and Collin Sexton as a secondary option, but it seems the organization recognizes their lack of talent at point guard.

While these rumors are a source of optimism they will upgrade the position, management doesn’t need to ransack the roster to do so, as they can simply utilize their salary space and draft capital to make more efficient moves.

Let’s take a look at a scenario that would involve them developing talent and retaining a familiar face.

A price-efficient solution at point guard for the New York Knicks:

Step 1: Retain Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose was a godsend for the Knicks last season, finishing a two-year, $14 million deal he signed with Detroit in 2019. Over 35 games, Rose averaged 26.8 minutes per game, starting in just three contests, despite him being put in after the first few minutes due to Elfrid Payton’s lackluster performances. Tom Thibodeau tried everything to mitigate fatigue for Rose, who the team desperately needed during the postseason — nagging injuries limited his impact during the latter portion of the Hawks series.

During his time in New York, he averaged 15 points, 4.2 assists, shot 48.7% from the field, and a career-high 41% from range. He also connected on 88% of his free-throw attempts, another career-high. It was clear Rose was playing on a different level, showcasing how much gas he has left in the tank and how he can serve as a starting PG moving forward. He would be far more cost-efficient than signing a younger option, but he will want a nice pay-raise after his performance this past season, so a one or two-year deal averaging $12 million AAV might suffice.

Step 2: Utilize Luca Vildoza as a two-way guard

The Knicks didn’t sign Argentinian native Luca Vildoza to sit on the bench, and considering he’s on a four-year deal; they obviously see him as a potential focal point next season.

Vildoza is a solid point guard who can also act as a shooting guard, showcasing his abilities from range during exhibition games for the Olympics these past few weeks. He has the vision to be a quality facilitator at the next level and is a smooth shooter, representing an upgrade over Payton, who averaged a measly 28% from three last year.

“Luca is definitely ready for the NBA,’’ Argentine coach Sergio Hernandez told The Post in a Zoom call last week. “I know he didn’t play good [Saturday] and today. He didn’t have good games. So many people can say he’s not ready. But believe me, I was coach in the ACB (Spanish League last season) and I am his coach the last six years on the national team. I know him so much. He’s ready.”

Based on what his coaches have said about him, the transition for Luca should be fruitful, and the Knicks must consider him into their plans when seeking a big name this off-season. Deploying him as a reserve guard who can help supplement injuries and mitigate fatigue for the starter would be an ideal strategy.

Step 3: Draft young point guard (three options stand out)

While there is the possibility that President Leon Rose will package draft capital together and target a trade opportunity, there’s always the possibility they sit still and operate within the draft.

If they keep their selections — 19, 21, 32, and 58, there are plenty of quality players who can provide specific strengths next season behind Rose and Vildoza.

1.) Davion Mitchell

Mitchell is an exciting young prospect with offensive potential but already contains elite defense. Based on Thibodeau’s style of play, I believe Mitchell would fit the bill perfectly for New York, depending on if they view his offense as capable enough in case they need him on a more regular basis. However, developing him as a long-term solution would be a positive scenario.

2.) Sharife Cooper

Cooper is the ideal facilitator in the draft, containing an undersized frame but the ability to find players in transition and down low in the paint. He’s an adequate shooter with plenty of potential in the category, also containing above-average handles. If the Knicks want a more crafty point guard who has been compared to the likes of Chris Paul and Trae You g, Cooper is their guy.

3.) Tre Mann

Mann is an offensive playmaker who projects as a shot-making PG to start his career, so he would fit the mold perfectly for the Knicks if they want to develop him behind the scenes. He is a smooth ballhandler with solid change of direction abilities, providing him with space to create shots. He’s not the toughest player on the floor and lacks defensive efficiency, so Thibs would have to be content with him being more of an offensive threat who can score when called upon.

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