Knicks’ options to solve their never-ending point guard crisis

The third-quarter turnover versus Utah didn’t decide Sunday’s game but was emblematic of this melancholy Knicks’ season without a point guard.

Facing his former team, starting point guard Alec Burks threw a short pass to Julius Randle on the perimeter. Juancho Hernangomez made an easy interception of the telegraphed feed, sprinted downcourt, and got fouled intentionally as he lifted for a layup.

Playmaking isn’t Burks’ strong suit, nor has it ever been as a bench-scoring wing, dating to his Jazz days when he rarely played the point. But the quiet-as-a-mouse Burks has been thrust in that floor-general role, miscast during this season of darkness.

Burks’ status has underscored Knicks president Leon Rose’s failure to address the franchise’s principal task last offseason — solidifying the point guard position.

Sunday’s cheerless Garden 108-93 loss to the Jazz was another rude awakening to “The Great Knicks Point Guard Problem of 2021-22.” Burks finished with three assists in 34 minutes and two turnovers, shooting 3 of 9 from the field.

Knicks guard Alec Burks (18) during their loss to the Jazz on Sunday.
NBAE via Getty Images

Burks’ sputtering amid the loss further shined a beam of light on the team brass’ empty summer when the free-agent point guard crop was plentiful.

Kemba Walker’s homecoming turned from fairytale to tragedy. The 31-year-old Bronx legend felt so unwanted by coach Tom Thibodeau, he preferred to shut it down at the All-Star break to train in Charlotte, where the Knicks visit Wednesday in the second leg of a back-to-back.

Ironically, Walker made his decision to quit on the team, believing Derrick Rose was about to supplant him as the starting point guard and kicked him out of the rotation a second time.

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Kemba Walker and the Knicks agreed he wouldn’t play the rest of the season.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Just as the 33-year-old Rose primed for his return, he underwent a second ankle procedure on Feb. 25 and might be gone for the season.

When the Knicks hook up with the Hawks on Tuesday at the Garden in one last-gasp effort to keep any play-in hopes alive, Rose will miss his 42nd straight game.

Thibodeau had been in an upbeat mood recently, feeling the club had played well since the All-Star Break and not quit on him. They’re ranked in the top 5 in net rating in 12 games since the break.

But against Utah, a lack of talent — particularly at point guard — was painfully evident. When Burks returned midway through the fourth quarter, the team fell apart. No orchestra leader. No playmaker. No chance with Randle dribbling too much into traffic and fumbling the game away.

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Derrick Rose, seen here on Sunday, hasn’t played for the Knicks since Dec. 16.
NBAE via Getty Images

Derrick Rose’s resourcefulness was most missed on Sunday. Rose’s poised fourth quarters during their 41-31 season last year took the heat off Randle.

Leon Rose will have another chance this summer to find a point guard — a quest that’s served as a franchise obsession since the 1980s. Derrick Rose can no longer be counted upon to be a piece who plays backup minutes.

The Knicks don’t have cap space any longer but they do have their 2021 second-round Eurostash pick in Rokas Jokubaitis, who has excelled in Barcelona.

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Barcelona point guard and Knicks draft pick Rokas Jokubaitis
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The Post has learned a couple members of the Knicks brass flew out in February to visit with Jokubaitis, who may play for the Knicks’ summer-league team, if he’s not tied up with Lithuania in the European championships. The crafty Jokubaitis still is no lock for next season but it’s a possibility.

In free agency, the Knicks will either have to trade expiring contracts — and they have a bunch, including Burks — or do a sign-and-trade deal to get an elite free agent. Their top target is Jalen Brunson of the Mavericks, but there are other free-agent point guards on the market.

NBA sources have long indicated Brunson, because of his many Knicks connections, is interested in the Knicks but his market value might have neared $20 million per.

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Mavericks point guard Jalen Brunson
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Center Mitchell Robinson, an unrestricted free agent, has eyed the Mavericks as a destination. Dallas needs rebounding and a defensive interior presence. A sign-and-trade package with Brunson and Robinson as the central characters isn’t farfetched.

Despite his modest size, Rick Brunson’s son out of Villanova is a dogged defender and the playmaker who can help Randle’s game by taking the ball out of his hands. The point forward role hasn’t worked as smoothly as it did last season and has zapped Randle of his energy.

If the Mavericks re-sign Brunson, the Knicks will have other options. A more expensive one is Cavaliers combo guard Collin Sexton. The Knicks had trade discussions with Cleveland entering the 2021 draft.

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Cavaliers point guard Collin Sexton
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The speedball Sexton is a restricted free agent after missing most of the season with a torn meniscus in his left knee, hurting his market rate. The Cavaliers have soared without Sexton as Darius Garland has commanded the point guard role.

Scouts view Sexton as a tireless worker, a dynamic scorer but nobody has ever accused him of being a true point guard like Garland.

Veterans Ricky Rubio, who played for Thibodeau in Minnesota, Patty Mills of the Nets, Dennis Schroder and defensive-minded Patrick Beverley are also free agents but one younger, cheaper option is Ja Morant’s backup in Memphis, Tyus Jones.

Unlike Burks, Jones, 25, is an organizer and good ball-handler.

Jones runs an offense efficacy by getting his mates in the right positions and is a stout defender. His analytics are solid and he has one of the league’s best assist-to-turnover ratios. That he’s a backup seeking starter’s money will make Memphis fret on whether they can keep him. Jones made $7.5 million this season.

If Rose doesn’t fix the point guard mess next season, the former agent could be gone sooner than Thibodeau.

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