Is Jason Kidd a Viable Option at Shooting Guard?

With the image of Iman Shumpert’s painful ACL tear in Game 1 of the Knicks first round series against Miami last year still fresh in my head, and no real updates on Ronnie Brewer’s absence following his arthroscopic knee surgery, New York finds themselves shallow in the shooting guard slot. Mike Woodson has repeatedly said J.R. Smith will be most useful coming off the bench for the Knicks, and his brother Chris along with Mychel Thompson both don’t have the caliber to be starters on what should be a contending team in the NBA. One could argue either of the two could be decent at just filling the starter slot temporarily until Ronnie Brewer returns, but there could be a much better option on the roster: Jason Kidd.

When Ronnie Brewer’s surgery was announced by the team on September 7th, he was said to miss six weeks of basketball, and we’ve seen no updates since. Chances are he should be able to play come the regular season, but this isn’t known for sure. I continue to believe Chris Smith has no place in the NBA from what I’ve seen from him in College and in the Las Vegas Summer League, and his signing was nothing more than a generous gesture by James Dolan to J.R. Smith. And frankly, I have not even seen Mychel Thompson play enough to judge if he has the talent to start for this team. Enter Jason Kidd, who’s role on this team, according to most, is as the backup point guard. However, last season Kidd proved to be a very solid player at shooting guard, perhaps even better than at the point.

Kidd was with the Dallas Mavericks last season, where he spent 34% of the time at the point guard position, and 18% of the time at the two-guard. Per-48 minutes, Kidd’s PER jumped 2.6 points, turnovers dropped by .4 points, assists increased by 1.5 points, rebounds up by .3, and his efficient field goal percentage elevated by .099, nearly a 10% growth, while shooting 2.4 less shots. On defense Kidd was also more effective at the shooting guard spot. His opposition’s PER dropped by 2.6 points when Kidd slid over from the point to the two, and their effective field goal percentage dropped by .043.

Although this all sounds great in theory, Kidd wouldn’t be able to do one of the things he does best at the two, running the pick-and-roll. With another point guard on the floor with him, Kidd would be more of a spot-up shooter than a floor general, which hurts his game. As a pick-and-roll ball handler Kidd shot 51% from the field and 55% from downtown, which are both terrific percentages, especially compared to his overall shooting percentages of 36% from the field and 35% from long range. To make matters worse, Kidd was not an effective spot-up marksman, throwing up shots at a 32% clip fromt he field and 33% from three-point land.

Another thing to take into account is that if Kidd ends up starting at shooting guard with Brewer missing some real game time, his chances of getting injured increase dramatically with the extra playing time, and this leaves the backup point guard role to Pablo Prigioni. It’s impossible to say Kidd can still deliver at 30 minutes a night, whereas a more realistic estimate is around 20 minutes a game. He is 39 years old, after all. The increased playing time would end up tiring Kidd out if there are some hiccups in Brewer’s comeback trail, and further increase the chance of him getting injured. Playing Prigioni at the point for 10 to 15 minutes for a few nights doesn’t sound all that bad, considering his stacked European basketball resume, but with no NBA experience whatsoever, it would be hard to throw him into this role so fast.

It’s a classic risk versus reward debate with whether or not Kidd should be starting at the shooting guard spot. Coach Mike Woodson has not yet determined who his starter will be, but did say J.R. won’t be that man. Mychel Thompson has been the shooting guard in practice with the starters in training camp thus far, and it should be interesting to see how this situation develops.