Though there were a handful of encouraging signs in New York’s 102-96 loss to Cleveland Monday evening — chief amongst them, Channing Frye actually showing up — a combined 5 points from Stephon Marbury (above) and Stevie Franchise is hard to ignore. The New York Sun’s John Hollinger argues the Knicks have far too many guards providing the same function (and doing so badly).

Having one guard like Marbury isn’t a problem. Sure, he’ll miss an open man or a mismatch sometimes, but he can break down defenses with his penetration and carry the offense for quarters at a time. But if all the guards are like Marbury, then it doesn’t work nearly as well.

That’s a fundamental flaw in the Knicks’ roster construction, unfortunately. Marbury, Steve Francis, Jamal Crawford, and Nate Robinson all have the exact same mentality ” keep the ball in my hands until I can create something, and if I really get stuck, then maybe I’ll pass it. Having one guard like this is fine; even two can work if the minutes are divvied up so they don’t play together much.

But four? That’s a recipe for disaster. You’ve heard the maxim about good guards making their teammates better? Well, the Knicks have the opposite effect. Having four guards who do the same thing makes each of them worse, as can easily be seen in their productivity this season. And that effect is multiplied by the rest of the roster, where below-average passers reside at every position. The result is that few Knicks receive the ball in position for a wideopen shot; instead, they constantly have to create one for themselves.

This is most evident among the guards, since they’re the ones who are supposed to do the sharing, and particularly stands out when the team runs a pick-and-roll. The roll man might as well read the newspaper at the foul line once he’s done setting the screen, because he has a snowball’s chance in Hades of getting the rock.