Can Shane Larkin Swipe Starting Point Guard Gig from Jose Calderon?

As expected, the New York Knicks are going through growing pains in the early stages of the 2014-15 NBA season, as they try to establish the triangle offense and a consistent defensive system.

The Knicks will be hoping that their struggles—at least on the offensive end—can be attributed to the absence of Jose Calderon at point guard. He was their major offseason acquisition and part of the reason they were comfortable with letting go of Tyson Chandler and his expiring $14 million contract.

Shane Larkin has been starting in place of Calderon, and while he's shown serious flashes of being effective on both ends, his overall production has been so-so in comparison with what the rest of the league is putting out at point guard.

For a young player, who is effectively playing in his second rookie season after an injury-plagued first year with the Dallas Mavericks, Larkin has been great. This is especially so considering the role he's been thrust into. But in terms of giving New York the best chance to win, time is running out for him to prove himself as the worthy starter over Calderon.

As the superior shooter and passer, Calderon is the better fit in the triangle offense. Larkin's speed makes him more effective as a fast-break player, and he could actually be more useful to the team as a spark plug off the bench, bringing energy and athleticism in a group featuring fellow youngsters Tim Hardaway Jr. and Cleanthony Early.

Still, there is a case to be made for continuing to start Larkin, at least until he loses the job.

While in an ideal world the Knicks would be playing the best starting five possible, regardless of age or experience, the fact of the matter is that they aren't particularly close to their final form right now and the focus should be on building for the future. That means weighing how important it really is to give minutes to the likes of Calderon and Pablo Prigioni (both of whom are nearing the end of their careers) when Larkin is more likely to have a future in New York.

The experience Larkin could get starting this season, going through the ups and downs and getting used to playing with the long-term keepers—namely Carmelo Anthony and Iman Shumpert—could be more valuable to the Knicks than the handful of extra wins Calderon and his veteran presence can provide.

Besides, this wouldn't necessarily mean a greatly diminished role for Calderon. Coming off the bench, he could help out the likes of Hardaway and Early with the offense and provide a bit more balance between the starters and the second unit. It's not like the Knicks have the greatest depth at the moment.

We know that Derek Fisher is still in the process of feeling out this team and finding the best rotation possible, and it's likely that will continue for a while even when Calderon and Andrea Bargnani return. A situation where Larkin continues to get starting experience but Calderon takes over in crunch time could work, so long as Larkin isn't actively hurting the team.

Given the low expectations for this season and the understanding that this is a work in progress, the Knicks have plenty of flexibility here and a decision doesn't have to be final.

Considering both sides, for the moment it is probably best to go with Calderon as the starter when he returns, barring an unlikely breakout from Larkin. The playoffs are still a realistic target, and as long as that is the case and you have both players and fans to keep happy, going with the best starting five possible is the best move.

Larkin should still get a fair amount of playing time off the bench and may actually showcase more against lesser competition as he continues to become comfortable in the NBA.

The pressures of running the point for a team getting accustomed to a new offense shouldn't rest on the shoulders of a young player, at least not this early in the season. That's what Calderon was brought here to do.

According to the NY Post, Phil Jackson has had the following to say about Calderon and the Knicks' offense:

We’re missing a lead guard of the quality of Jose who has the composure and ability to settle a team down, gve them organization of the offense with some savvy.

The Knicks' early problems don't necessarily stem exclusively from Larkin but with the team averaging a league-worst 91.1 points per game. Something has to change and the addition of a point guard of Calderon's calibre could be that change.

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