If guard is the Knicks’ most plentiful position, then small forward is their least. Let’s take a look at these two players:
From these stats Player A is obviously superior. And that’s who the Knicks thought they were getting when they traded for Quentin Richardson. Player B is the player they actually got. (A is Richardson’s averages pre-New York, B is his averages in a Knick uniform). Despite a clear decline in play, Richardson will be the Knicks defacto starter at small forward, a position he’s had for the last 3 years. It’s painfully obvious that Richardson’s career has taken a downturn due to injuries. SI.com has a list of his injuries over the last two seasons: head, right ankle, flu, right knee tendon, back surgery, sprained right elbow, back spasms, and hamstring strain. We can only hope that Q-Rich takes his flu shot this year.
Richardson has a couple of positives. He has a familiarity with D’Antoni due to playing under him in 2005, and he exerts energy on the defensive end. How effective those two make him are another story. Quentin can hit the three (career 35.2% 3P%) and rebound (6.4 REB/36), but he has been a substandard scorer. Last year he was woefully inefficient (TS%: 44.4%, eFG%: 42.1%) and averaged a pitiful 8.1 points per game off of 8.5 shot attempts. The team would be better off playing him 20 minutes off the bench instead of the 28.3 minutes per game he averaged last year. Without a major turnaround in scoring efficiency, he’s bench material.
Unfortunately Richardson will more likely get the lion’s share of the minutes at small forward, because the Knicks don’t have many other options. The main reserve is 21 year old Wilson Chandler. A late first round pick, Chandler is an athletic 6-8 swingman. As billed by the “Ill Will” tatooes on his arms, Chandler is a good defender. He can contribute in a variety of ways: blocks, steals, rebounds, three point shots, and points. On the negative side of the ledger, Chandler is an inefficient scorer (TS: 48.0%, eFG% 45.7%) who isn’t shy about taking a shot.
There are lots of players similar to Chandler, under 21 year old forwards with poor shooting percentages, with varying results. For every Donyell Marshall, Trevor Ariza, and Al Harrington there seems to be a Lamond Murray, Sylvester Gray, or Yi Jianlian to match (for Net fans change that last name to Samaki Walker). At this point it’s unclear which path Chandler is on.
Wilson Chandler may be too young for a starting role, but if the Knicks went out to a nightclub, Danilo Gallinari would be waiting outside for someone to pass him Wilson Chandler’s driver’s license. [Warning from the KnickerBlogger.Net legal dept. – using someone else’s id to enter a nightclub is illegal, immoral, and more likely to have your night end in a White Castle than someone else’s bed.] Gallinari won’t be of legal American drinking age until next August. Additionally he’ll be adjusting to an entirely different country, game, and diet. (Sorry Gallo – you won’t have freshly made hand cut pasta on the road.)
Lamentably, there isn’t much to say about Gallinari’s game that wouldn’t be conjecture. He hurt his back in summer league and is just starting to practice with the team. Since D’Antoni said he didn’t want Gallinari to play in the D-League, it’s probable that Danilo will sit on the end of the bench for most of the year. Gallinari’s future will be at power forward, but considering he hasn’t grown into his body yet, his injury, and the Knicks lack of depth at the three, small forward is probably where he’ll get the bulk of his minutes. When Richardson eventually misses a big chunk of time, don’t be surprised to see Gallinari’s name get called in the second quarter of games.
All in all the Knicks don’t have a lot of options at small forward. Going into the season two of their three potential SFs are battling injuries: Chandler and Gallinari. Additionally Jared Jeffries (who isn’t listed here because D’Antoni plays him in the frontcourt) who could play SF is also injured. Patrick Ewing Jr., who at the time of this writing has a chance of making the roster, has played only 24 preseason minutes. Even if Junior makes the team, it’s possible he’ll start the season in the D-League. D’Antoni will use a three guard rotation at times, but if Richardson and Chandler both get hurt at the same time he’ll have some interesting decisions to make.