The Knicks’ front office has been active this summer making a number of moves to try and keep the team in some semblance of contention. They’ve thus far traded for Andrea Bargnani, re-signed JR Smith, Kenyon Martin, and Pablo Prigioni, and brought aboard the recently-amnestied — and forever volatile — Metta World Peace.
Yet, glancing at the current depth chart — even with the all the offseason additions — the Knicks clearly have a number of roster issues that need to be addressed.
Mike Woodson might be bringing back a lot familiar faces from last year’s squad, but the absence of Jason Kidd as the team’s steady backup point guard remains arguably the biggest void. Kidd — whose production plummeted in the playoffs, where he tallied a robust 0.9 ppg — retired, landing another NBA gig somewhere else. Can’t remember where. But even given Kidd’s infamous playoff woes, it’s easy to forget how important he was to the Knicks’ early season success, when the team sprinted out of the gate to the tune of a 21-8 tear.
Despite his age, Kidd was a guy the Knicks leaned on pretty heavily during the regular season, where he played major minutes (at least 30 minutes per game in 36 outings, per NBA.com) and contributed both inside and outside the box score.
Kidd’s scoring production (a mere six points per game) is very much replaceable, but perhaps the biggest post-Kidd challenge facing Woodson will be finding a new combo guard(s) to fill the minutes Kidd’s departure leaves open.
Of all the 5-man units Woodson used last season that tallied at least 30 minutes together, the most successful unit consisted of Felton, Kidd, Smith, Melo, and Chandler — a quintet that played a team-high 269.9 minutes, per 82games.com. What separated this unit from the rest was their incredibly efficient +137 when they were on the court together — an impressive number, to be sure.
So who fills the void? The Knicks are reportedly interested in the services of combo-guards Delonte West and Beno Udrih. Udrih is most definitely the better — and pricier — option to fill the combo-slot alongside with Prigioni, for a couple of reasons.
First, Udrih is a much better passer than West. Over the course of his 9-year NBA career, Udrih went from averaging roughly four assists per 36 minutes to close to seven per 36 last season.
West is the better shooter, but he also shoots more then Udrih. A lot more. Which poses its own potential problem: bringing in a player like West to a backcourt that features JR Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr, Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni begs a simple question of available shots. The Knicks have plenty of scoring options already in place, so focusing on adding another combo guard who’s primary instincts are to shoot — and not create for others — is probably not the way to go.
We also have a pretty good idea of what Udrih is going to bring to the table if he’s brought aboard instead of West; the former played major minutes for the Orlando Magic down the stretch last season, while the latter didn’t suit up for a single NBA game.
While Udrih is probably worth more then what the Knicks will be able to pay him (the veteran’s minimum) he is on the north side of 30, where he may be willing to accept a little less to play for a playoff team.
With a recent knee surgery expected to sideline J.R. Smith for the start of the 2013-14 season, the Knicks find themselves in a situation not unlike the beginning of last year, when it was Iman Shumpert whom the Knicks were waiting to return from his own, decidedly more serious injury.
Whether they end up with Udrih, West, or someone else entirely, New York’s newest signee will likely be counted on for some major minutes — and production — to start the season.