Most New York Knicks fans believe the team needs to sign a center to fill their final roster position. It's a logical assumption since Tyson Chandler is the only true center currently on New York's roster. However, with only one remaining open roster spot the team has flirted with forwards and guards much more often than they've talked to centers. Is it possible that Glen Grunwald believes he has enough talent at center and will look elsewhere with the 15th roster spot?
Tyson Chandler has solidified himself as the New York Knicks undeniable starting center and defensive leader. However, he's also the only true center on the Knicks' roster. Clearly New York has to sign a backup center with the final roster spot right? Not so fast, the Knicks may have enough bodies to fill in behind Chandler already.
When you look at the Knicks roster you'll see they have way too many power forwards and far too little centers. While both Carmelo Anthony and Metta World Peace are both natural small forwards both can also play power forward. Then there's Kenyon Martin, Amare Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani as well. On top of that, the Knicks signed Jeremy Tyler. It's pretty safe to say they're fairly set at power forward even if the team gets bitten by the injury bug.
Someone has to back up Chandler though right? What ever will the team do without signing Louis Amundson, Earl Barron or Hamed Haddadi? First of all, it's very safe to say that Martin will be the primary reserve center like he was last season.
Additionally, both Stoudemire and Bargnani have had some of their most successful NBA playing time at the center position. On top of that, Tyler can play center as well. The Knicks do project him as a power forward but his experience at center allows them to use him there if needed.
The benefit of using their power forward depth to fill their reserve center minutes is that they can fill their final roster spot with the best remaining talent they can sign for the veteran's minimum and that it also helps take care of the log jam they have at power forward.
Everyone's familiar with Mike Woodson's two-point guard system. You could look at this as a two-power forward system. It would allow Woodson to play a combination of Martin, Stoudemire, Bargnani and Tyler on the floor at the same time and have a free flowing offense in the paint.
The obvious downfall to playing this way is the lack of natural rebounders in this group. Martin has averaged 7.0 rebounds a game over his career and only 5.3 per game last season for the Knicks. Stoudemire has averaged 8.6 rebounds a game over his career but has seen his numbers decrease every season in New York (8.2 in 2010-11, 7.8 in 2011-12 and 5.0 2012-13).
Bargnani has averaged 4.8 rebounds a game over has career including a career low 3.7 per game last season for the Toronto Raptors. Tyler has averaged 2.5 rebounds a game over his short career. Last season for the Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks he only averaged 1.0 rebound per game.
That's clearly a concern but one that probably can't be taken care of in free agency. There's just not enough rebounders out there. Amundson has only averaged 3.6 rebounds per game over his career. Barron has only averaged 3.7 rebounds per game over his career. Haddadi has only averaged 2.5 rebounds per game over his career.
The other remaining top free agent center is Jason Collins. He's 7'0", 255 pounds and a veteran. He's seemingly fit the bill but if you look he's only averaged 3.8 rebounds per game over his 12 year NBA career. Additionally, there's the baggage that comes with signing the first NBA player to admit to being gay. Clearly his sexuality doesn't have an effect on his playing ability but in a media driven area like New York signing Collins might bring more attention than the Knicks are prepared for considering he'd be filling the 15th roster spot.
Remember, this is more than just who will fill in the reserve time behind Chandler. This is also about keeping Chandler healthy and productive. Clearly he's not the same player and doesn't have the same impact when he's overused like last season.
In fact, if you compare his championship year with the Mavericks to his two seasons in New York you can see why he was able to stay healthy in Dallas. During the 2010-11 season with the Mavericks, Tyson averaged 10.1 points, 1.1 blocks, 0.5 steals, 0.4 assists and 9.4 rebounds in 27.8 minutes per game.
In the 2011-12 season with the Knicks, Tyson averaged 11.3 points, 1.4 blocks, 0.9 steals, 0.9 assists and 9.9 rebounds in 33.2 minutes per game. In the 2012-13 season in New York, Tyson averaged 10.4 points, 1.1 blocks, 0.6 steals, 0.9 assists and 10.7 rebounds in 32.8 minutes per game.
Now, those numbers are pretty consistent. However, if you notice he's basically averaging the same production he had in Dallas but using five to six more minutes to record those numbers. That means, he's simply not as productive. Going into next season at 31 years old, it's hard to expect him to be able to maintain playing 33 minutes a game and stay healthy. Those minutes lead to nagging injuries which lead to poor performances like we saw out of him in the playoffs last season.
Quite simply, Woodson needs to get Chandler's minutes down to 28-30 minutes a game. That three to five minutes less per game will make a big impact on Chandler's health and performance throughout the second half of the season. That means the Knicks will need to rely on others, such as their power forward depth, to give Chandler a break while maintaining enough defensive integrity to not force Woodson to put Chandler back in too quickly.
So, what will the Knicks do? Knicks 101 has pushed for the Knicks to sign an additional center for a long time. Even if it's just someone who sits on the bench the majority of the time it seems like a worth while insurance policy considering the questionable health of Chandler, Stoudemire, Martin and Bargnani.
However, considering no team ever plans on their talent being hurt and Woodson has to find playing time for Stoudemire, Martin and Bargnani you could understand why Glen Grunwald might feel he has enough big bodies to fill their needs behind Chandler. The question is, will the Knicks sign another big man or do they believe they have enough to fill their needs already?
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