Is the Knicks' Toney Douglas Better Suited to be an Everyday Starter in NBA?
Toney Douglas’ young NBA career has already taken some wild twists and turns. For starters, he was thrust into a starting role at the end of his rookie season after playing sparingly in the months prior, expected to lead a struggling Knicks squad.
With his team going under a complete overhaul, leaving him as one of the last standing, Douglas was again expected to take the reins and lead the way as the Knicks looked to find their winning ways once again. The expectation for him to start, however, didn’t last long, as Raymond Felton signed with the team later in the offseason.
Now with Felton gone, and new floor general Chauncey Billups out with a nagging injury, it’s again up to Douglas to man the fort while the Knicks look to elevate themselves into a major contender with Carmelo Anthony finally in town.
While some may say the various role changes are part of the life of a professional athlete, the uncertainty and back-and-forth nature has to have an effect on a player’s psyche at some point.
Nevertheless, Douglas has taken it all in stride. In fact, throughout his most recent promotion to starter with Billups missing time, Douglas has upped his game once again, averaging 16.6 points and 6.6 assists in his last five games.
What’s more impressive than just his surely inflated statistics (as a result of receiving more playing time) is his increased efficiency during that same span. Douglas has bounced back to shoot 59 percent overall from the field, including 52 percent from downtown, after making a total of only three shots in last 21 attempts in his three previous games, all as a reserve.
While many players may claim their game day routine and/or preparedness is never affected by whether they start or come off the bench, it’s seemingly a factor for Douglas as evidenced in the way he plays. His mindset is clearly different as a starter. As he steps in for Billups with little scoring depth on the Knicks behind Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, Douglas knows he has the green light to be aggressive and let it rain on offense.
Being able to have such an impact on the game appears as though it does wonders for Douglas’ production. At the same time, the Knicks would love to have him fill it up on offense off the bench as their sixth man, but Douglas just doesn’t play the same way when coming off the pine.
It’s easy to understand that Douglas’ numbers are bound to increase with more minutes, but the fact that his efficiency on the court skyrockets is interesting. Though his progression may prompt one to ponder if Douglas is “ready” to be an everyday starter, even just as a second-year player. It should furthermore prompt one to consider whether Douglas is completely better suited as a starter than a reserve.
When Donnie Walsh purchased the 29th overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft from the Lakers, priority number one was obviously racking up assets (in means of a young prospect) for the future. And after drafting defensive-minded Douglas after Chris Duhon’s promising first year with the Knicks, it was unclear how much of an impact he would have.
Nevertheless, the Knicks’ staff obviously has tremendous faith in Douglas after calling his number again and again. Coach Mike D’Antoni can be seen getting visibly upset, often yelling at Douglas from the sidelines and during timeouts over the course of games. Perhaps all of that is “tough love,” as the entire staff may have more than enough confidence in Douglas after all.
Though he obviously makes mistakes a young player is bound to, Douglas has gotten smarter as the months have gone by. His good instincts, along with his solid defense and aggressive offensive nature, are sure to continue to make him a better player. As he continues to progress, Douglas is learning from the coaching staff. Furthermore, Knicks Hall of Fame point guard and broadcaster Walt “Clyde” Frazier praises Douglas as one of only three players to ever seek him out for advice.
It’s clear that Douglas is improving into an extremely solid player. The question is how long the Knicks can keep him down as a reserve. If he is in fact better suited (and perhaps will be fully ready shortly) for a starting role, the team will have to evaluate whether Douglas is to be their point guard of the future, opting for a promising, ever improving player who is eager to learn, rather than one of the superstar point guards set to be available to the Knicks in 2012.