Today, the KnickerBlogger crew looks to stand in Coach Woodson’s shoes and determine one maddening question as the season approaches: how should the Knicks’ big-man rotation be handled?
McElroy: First, give Chandler as many minutes as his body can handle. Let’s call it 48 40 36 shit, 33 a night. I don’t want to see a single important minute of Stoudemire or Bargnani at center which I suppose means I’m giving 15 a night to K-Mart, which sounds about right anyway. That leaves 48 minutes of power forward to be shared between STAT and Bargs, so I think that….wait…what’s that? We have the defending NBA scoring champ on our team and he’s at his most dangerous when he plays the four? Give Melo 28 PF minutes (with the balance of his time at the three), give Amar’e the other 20, and tell Bargnani you’ll find minutes for him during the 77 games when one or more injuries renders everything else I’ve written in this paragraph moot.
Kurylo: To answer the first question, Chandler, Stoudemire, Martin, and Bargnani, by health. Yes — I would love for Chandler to get lots of rest. But I don’t see a situation where the Knicks can survive without him. Even if Stoudemire is healthy, he is (and should be) on a time limit. Martin is small for every day center duty, and he’s also old and potentially brittle. I don’t think Bargnani should be playing center much or even at all.
Honestly I have my money on Jeremy Tyler, as long as he doesn’t shoot. From best I can tell he’s a poor man’s Reggie Evans. Zero offensive game, good rebounding, not so much with the blocked shots. And that I’m talking about Tyler, tells you everything you need to know about the state of the Knicks bigs.
Fisher-Cohen: This might be the most important question here. Every one of these players has the potential to be a disaster if misused or overused, and thanks to the size of other Eastern Conference playoff hopefuls, the effectiveness of New York’s bigs is critical to their hopes of making any sort of playoff run.
The starting point for me is considering which one of these players have the most potential to positively impact a Knicks playoff run. I say there are three of them: Chandler, Martin and Bargnani.
Stoudemire has immense offensive talent, but even if he’s healthy, the main value New York will derive from him will come in the ten minutes a game that Anthony rests. He and Anthony play the same position, like the same spots, and have similar weaknesses. Fortunately for New York, Stoudemire’s body probably won’t tolerate more than token minutes, so limiting his minutes is doubly good. Strictly playing as a backup to Anthony should keep STAT fresh for the regular season while allowing the Knicks to develop chemistry between lineups that are more likely to do damage in the playoffs.
Fun fact about Tyson Chandler: Before joining the Knicks, he had only played over 30 minutes a night three times in ten seasons. It’s no coincidence that his championship season was one of those wherein his minutes were limited. Chandler has a history of injury problems and is not getting any younger, so I say his cap should be 27 minutes. Sure, cutting him down to 27 minutes a night might cost the Knicks a few games in the regular season, but the regular season don’t matter — just ask Rick Carlisle, who learned that the hard way.
Most of the above about Chandler applies doubly to K-Mart, so I’m capping him at ten minutes a game, all at center.
That leaves eleven minutes at center and another fifteen minutes for bigs if we slide Melo to the three when Shumpert rests. In order to not get destroyed on the boards, I give the rest of the center minutes to Tyler, who at least appears to be a rebounder and try to protect him defensively by playing Shumpert and Prigioni alongside him.
Really though, it gets nightmarish trying to build a balanced lineup without Martin or Chandler. I hope Woodson has the brains and testicular fortitude to sacrifice some regular season wins for playoff health.
Cronin: I would really love to see Chandler get more rest, but I just don’t see it being realistic. Winning the Atlantic division and therefore more or less guaranteeing avoiding having to play either Miami, Chicago, Indiana or Brooklyn in the first round is huge so I don’t see Chandler getting significant rest. Let us at least hope that his minutes decrease to 30 minutes per game. I don’t think anything under 30 is realistic with the way Woodson has been treating him since he began coaching him. I think Martin is probably best suited to roughly 12 minutes a game but I bet he plays closer to 15-16 minutes a game. Let’s say 16. That’s 46 minutes right there. So 2 minutes to STAT and then STAT can get at least 15 more minutes at the 4 with just Melo’s time on the bench. 17 minutes for STAT is not unreasonable, right? Bargs, meanwhile, I believe will be slowly worked into things, given the chance to play some 5 against centers that the Knicks would prefer to draw away from the rim (guys like Hibbert). Then he just has to prove he can reliably nail the three when he is a tertiary option. If he can, then you essentially blow up the minutes and begin playing Bargs as the stretch 4 with Melo playing more minutes at the 3 and Bargs as the stretch 5 at the expense of Martin’s minutes.
Topaz: In a recent piece for KB, I wrote extensively about the Knicks’ precarious situation at the center position. To summarize in a couple sentences, the Knicks need to protect Tyson Chandler, a 13-year NBA veteran who has posted serious minutes (33 MPG the last two seasons) and seriously wore down last season. In other words, the Knicks need to keep Chandler fresh for big games and the postseason by reducing his minutes. Unfortunately, despite having a fairly loaded frontcourt, the Knicks are unfortunately thin backing him up, carrying several poor-rebounding and/or injury-prone forwards who aren’t really suited for the task – Bargnani, Amar’e, and KMart (and an unproven Jeremy Tyler.)
Chandler needs to come down to 28-30 MPG, at least as long as everyone is healthy. And I agree almost completely with McElroy when he says that all non-Chandler minutes must feature KMart on the floor. So Martin should be used almost exclusively as a center and play anywhere from 18-20 minutes a night.
Power forward becomes far trickier, and I’ll have to hedge (hopefully with far more dexterity than Bargnani and Amar’e on pick-and-rolls.) The Knicks have four players who are at their best when they play power forward. Much virtual ink has been spilled at Melo’s terrifying offensive prowess at the 4, and the efficiency of those small-ball lineups in general. Amar’e and Bargnani’s defensive deficiencies, and Bargnani’s comically awful rebounding (worst among all qualified centers last year in rebounding rate), make them incapable of playing center without defensive chaos reigning supreme. And while World Peace remains a very valuable defender, at this stage in his career he is far better-suited to guarding bigger, slower forwards than typical small forwards. Will Bargnani and Amar’e stay healthy? Will the former be effective when healthy? Will MWP continue to find defensive success against power forwards? Will the Knicks stick with small-ball lineups? All those unanswerable questions make figuring out the power forward situation is a headache, for now. It’ll be easier when (and I do mean when) Amar’e and Bargnani get hurt.
Silverman: I agree with Lord Jonathan of Topaz. Asking Chandler to log more than 28-30 MPG is practically begging for him to get hurt. Actually, considering his career arc, he’s probably going to miss 15-20 games no matter what. The problem is, while Kenyon Martin was surprisingly effective in the 18 regular season games he logged upon returning to the NBA last year, I don’t think you can expect 20 MPG for a full season without more than a few trips to kindly ol’ Doc Roger Hinds medical practice/glue factory. I think you have to assume there’ll be 20-odd evenings when he too finds himself on the inactive list, and that’s with keeping his playing time at 15 MPG or so.
By my back of the napkin math (I’ve got an iPhone app that gives you a napkin to do calculations), that leaves three MPG for for the nights when Chandler and Martin are both hale and hearty and 20 games where you’re going to need a full evening’s work from other individuals. That’s where things get a interesting, to put it mildly. It’s partly why Woodson recently stated that one of the Aldrich-Powell-Diogo troika has a good shot of making the roster. And that’s assuming that Jeremy Tyler, regardless of the fact that he’s going to be MIA for a tad longer, is probably already assured of a spot. But the idea of a smallball unit and a grab bag of retread bigs playing significant minutes has to be downright scary. Hell, I think I’m going to go as “Starting Center, Cole Aldrich” for Halloween this year.
David Vertsberger: I’d like to give Chandler a good 35 minutes a night, but that’s me being overly optimistic that he’ll be able to handle that load. Whatever minutes he gives up at the center should go to K-Mart. As for the power forward spot, I really couldn’t care less who plays more minutes off the bench between Stoudemire and Bargnani – so long as neither plays more than 15 a night. Go with whoever works there as the season progresses, keep Metta at the 3 for the most part and Anthony at the 4 always. Jeremy Tyler can be the Knicks towel waving human victory cigar.