The New York Knicks have searched high and low for a reserve big man this offseason, and their salary constraints have made it difficult to lure in some of the players that they would have liked to. One name that could potentially fit into the team's plans is power forward Ivan Johnson, a free agent who has played the first two seasons of his career with the Atlanta Hawks.
ESPN's Jared Zwerling reports that Johnson has caught the eye of Knicks general manager Glen Grunwald, though he cites that Johnson is known to be seeking a mini mid-level contract. This would put him out of reach for the Knicks, but the team could bring him aboard if he were willing to accept the minimum-level salary. Zwerling reports that Johnson would do so "depending on the situation."
The Knicks have made several changes up and down the roster this offseason, but one role they've failed to address is under the basket. Sure, Andrea Bargnani and Amar'e Stoudemire provide nice depth off the bench, but neither is the hard-nosed bruiser that the team so desperately needs. Johnson, a 6'8" power forward, fits the bill.
His stats last season in Atlanta were far from eye-popping. He averaged 15 minutes, 6.6 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. The best part of his game was his efficiency, as he shot a career-high 52 percent from the floor. Even if his numbers weren't through the roof, Johnson did place in the top-10 in the NBA in rebounds per 40 minutes.
For a team that finished 26th in the NBA in rebounding last season, it's obvious to see why Grunwald has been so keen on bringing in somebody down low. Kenyon Martin is still a possible option, but nearly every other player that was targeted outright turned down the team or signed elsewhere due to the Knicks' cap issues.
Johnson would fit perfectly with head coach Mike Woodson's already talented lineup. Albeit an undersized big man, Johnson can play center when needed behind Tyson Chandler and is a more-than-capable reserve for Carmelo Anthony (or Bargnani) at the four. His signing would give the team some much needed versatility as well. Woodson could opt to use Stoudemire behind Chandler instead, making Johnson the main reserve at the power forward position.
Johnson isn't the flashiest of players, nor is he an offensive weapon when on the court. He does all the little things well, and the Knicks could certainly benefit from having him. It will all come down to his determination of whether or not the Knicks are the right "situation."
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