In case you haven’t heard already, the Knicks traded Steve Novak, Marcus Camby, two second-round picks, and what — if karma and justice exist in the universe — will certainly be the #1 overall pick in the 2017 draft in exchange for Italian forward and long-two enthusiast Andrea Bargnani.
The trade, for the most part, was panned, but that’s not important right now. What’s important is that we all collectively realize that the Knicks now have Andrea Bargnani and Amar’e Stoudemire on the same roster.
This is not a drill. This is real life.
It would seem preposterous that New York would surrender so many assets in exchange for Bargnani to only have him play 18 minutes per game off the bench. (Actually, now that I say that out loud I’m not sure.) Assuming that to be true, every minute that Bargnani plays in addition to those 18 sends like likelihood of Amar’e and Andrea sharing a frontcourt together skyrocketing. There are two and only two rational responses to this:
1. Sheer, unadulterated terror (if you’re a Knicks fan)
2. Never-ending violent laughter that may ultimately result in vomiting (if you aren’t)
Regardless, it’s pretty much an inevitability that Stoudemire and Bargnani will, at some point this season, both be on the court at the same time. Considering the bullet-riddled-sneakers of the Knicks, it will probably be way more than anyone is expecting. Thus, it would seem like a good idea to run through the remainder of the Knicks’ roster to try to piece together three other players that could share the court with the two aforementioned big men.
Pablo Prigioni, Iman Shumpert, Tyson Chandler
The basic premise is that neither Stoudemire nor Bargnani would be considered defensive stalwarts. In fact, they’d probably not be considered such in the WNBA. They are both rather tall, but when on defense neither seem to be particularly interested in doing things like “rotating,” “pursuing rebounds” or “acting like a live human being.” In an attempt to counter-balance, we surround them on the court by New York’s two best defensive players and their best defensive point guard.
Offensively, this lineup would likely be a train wreck. Bargnani would have to play small forward, where he provides neither the requisite foot speed nor floor spacing for the position. Without much shooting on the floor, Tyson Chandler’s best offensive skill (diving through the paint following a high screen) becomes far less valuable – the defense is much more willing to collapse on his first movement towards the rim. The result would likely be Prigioni or Shumpert creating their own (bad) shot off the dribble. And even with Chandler and Shumpert on the floor, Bargnani and Stoudemire would submarine the defense. No dice.
Ray Felton, J.R. Smith, Tyson Chandler
So, we keep Chandler on the floor to give the defense SOME semblance of respectability, and we swap out Prigioni and Shumpert for Felton and Smith, hopefully to give some offensive creativity. However, like above, Bargnani just doesn’t give them what they need from their small forward, and spacing would still be an issue, especially when the ball is in J.R. Smith’s hands.
It just seems like it’s not possible to have Chandler on the floor with Bargnani and Stoudemire – Bargnani is only capable of providing value on offense if he’s dragging a big man away from the paint. He’s not doing that when he’s a nominal small forward.
Tyson Chandler, Kenyon Martin, Metta World Peace
Ray Felton, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler
I know what I just said, but for some reason this lineup intrigues me. Yes, it involves Carmelo Anthony at shooting guard, yes, Bargnani is still playing small forward, and yes, the defense would still be unacceptably bad, but there would be potential to create crippling confusion for the opposing defense. Teams will always cross-match to get the best possible defensive matchup against Carmelo. However, in doing so, there is likely to be a favorable matchup elsewhere – in this case, there would likely be a guard defending Bargnani. If Bargs has ANY semblance of a post-up gaBAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA no, sorry, you’re right, I should just move on.
Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Metta World Peace
(Evil, Maniacal Laughter)
Ray Felton, Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony
Okay, so Chandler can’t be on the floor. Can we at least try to shoe-horn Shumpert in there, you know, just in case they want to resemble an NBA defense at any point?
While the sentiment may be strong, it actually turns out that the Felton-Shumpert-Carmelo triumvirate actually sported a net rating of -2.7 per 100 possessions last season, and I’m going to go out on a limb and say the elixir for that is not a heavy dose of Amar’e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani.
Ray Felton, J.R. Smith, Carmelo Anthony
Okay, so, if we’ve given up the idea of somehow having Tyson Chandler or Shumpert on the floor, we’re resigning ourselves to the fact that regardless of who else IS on the floor, any lineup with the Amar’e-Bargnani combo at power forward and center is going to have a defensive efficiency roughly equivalent to the population of Indonesia. To remedy? Just try to outscore the other team.
So we put the three best offensive perimeter players on the floor. Carmelo would play as a nominal small forward, but would be used more as a power forward – playing as the roll man with Felton or Smith, posting up smaller defenders, (hopefully) taking advantage of Bargnani (hopefully) pulling his man away from the basket. Smith and Felton would be the primary ball-handlers, playing with three forwards who, at one point or another, displayed some ability to (a) set semi-effective screens, and (2) shoot from range.
The spacing issues from earlier attempts would be (somewhat) alleviated, and the unit seems to have a clear modus operandi – set a lot of screens and bomb threes or have Carmelo post up.
Let’s be clear, though: in all likelihood, this will not be a good lineup. The best lineups the Knicks employ this season will likely include neither Bargnani nor Stoudemire. The point of this exercise was to try to peer into the abstract to find a best-case scenario for the inevitable pairing. I did the best I could.