2008 Season Preview: The Frontcourt
This year the New York offense will center around their big men. Last year Eddy Curry shot efficiently, and was a good rebounder on the offensive end. But he struggled to find his teammates when double teamed and turned the ball over too frequently. It’s possible that Curry was overused on offense, and was force fed the ball more than he was comfortable with. This year Zach Randolph should be able to take some of the scoring burden off of Curry. Randolph and Curry’s games overlap in many of the same areas. Both can score in the low post, both are turnover happy, and both have trouble sharing the ball with their teammates. If you want to get more granular in the comparison Randolph isn’t as efficient with his shot, but he’s a better rebounder, passer, and turns the ball over less often.
Despite Randolph’s near All Star level offensive game, it’s unclear whether he will help the offense in 2008. Zach replicates much of Curry’s game, so the law of diminishing returns comes into play. Additionally he’s taking minutes away from the last year’s most effective Knick: David Lee. The second year player was a perfect compliment to his ball-needy teammates, providing excellent rebounding and finishing around the basket. Barring an injury to Randolph or Curry, Lee will be lucky to match his 2007 average of 29.8 min/g. On the other hand, Randolph will also assume some of the minutes the team gave to Channing Frye and Malik Rose, who were horribly unproductive last year. Lee’s injury was devastating to the Knicks not only because they lost his production, but because Frye & Rose had to pick up the slack. This year the Knicks are better protected against injury with their depth.
For all the optimism on the offensive pairing of Zach Randolph with Eddy Curry, there should be an equal amount of pessimism on the defensive end. Say what you want about Channing Frye, but Frye?s blocked shot rate (0.9 BLK/40) is greater than the sum of Randolph (0.2) and Curry (0.6). Knicks on the perimeter that are looking at the front court to erase their mistakes will be sorely disappointed. It’s possible that Curry could become more aggressive in the paint. His block rate nearly halved last year as he attempted to avoid foul trouble. With a second scorer, it?s possible that Isiah isn?t as reliant on Curry to stay on the court.
If you’re looking for a silver lining defensively, Randolph was nearly 1 defensive rebound per 40 minutes better than Frye last year, so that should help the defense slightly. David Lee is an average defender, but certainly not better than that. Compared to Randolph and Curry, Lee has good foot speed, but he has trouble with bigger players. Ultimately New York will give the Milwaukee Bucks (Bogut, Villanueva, and Jianlian) a run for the money when it comes to the NBA’s worst defensive frontcourt trio.
At the end of the Knicks’ bench will be Malik Rose and Randolph Morris. Rose will see time due to his defense. He’s a shrewd and tenacious defender, but he’s physically limited what what he can accomplish. On the other end of the court Rose is an awful shooter who frequently gets stuffed underneath the basket. Undersized for his position, Rose no longer has the lift to score down low. Ironically Rose’s best asset on the offensive end is his ability to pass the ball into the post, something the guards have trouble doing.
Nearly the opposite of Rose is Morris. At 6-10, Morris is able to play either forward or center, and only has 43 minutes of NBA action under his belt. In the summer he was able to face up players on the blocks and shoot from 12 feet. We’re still unsure exactly what his strengths and weaknesses are, but this year we should get the chance to find out. Jerome James will eat up a roster spot and anything with 3 feet of his mouth.