What does Chandler’s absence mean to the Knicks?
Ask me “gun to my head” which Knick is least replaceable, and I’ll say Carmelo Anthony. That’s because the Knicks don’t have much depth at forward. But if you gave me time to think, I might just answer Tyson Chandler. Simply put, as Chandler goes so goes the Knicks defense. New York was 5th on defense in 2012 when Tyson was T-1000, and they were 18th in 2013 when he was doing his impersonation of Wall-E.
There’s no doubt that Tyson looked healthy this year, perhaps the healthiest he’s been in New York. The guy was grabbing 12.1 boards and blocking 3.4 shots per 36 minutes before Kemba Walker pulled an Antoni Hardonk on him. After 2 games the Knicks were first in the league in defensive efficiency. Heck even after the lackluster Timberwolf performance and the debacle against the Bobcats, New York ranks 10th on D.
If Tyson is out 6 weeks, then he’ll be back on the December 18th game against the Cunninghams. That would be game 25 – which means that Chandler will miss 20 games, or about a quarter of the season. By my back of the envelope calculations, I’m guessing the injury costs New York 4-6 wins. So adjust accordingly.
How will Woodson handle it?
My guess is that Woodson initially trots out Bargnani, Martin, and ‘Melo. Woodson loves big men. Ewww that was weird to type. There’s a chance that he leaves Martin on the bench and goes with three guards. However I think the guiltless (and inefficient) shooting of Junior, the poor play of Beno, and the suspension of J.R. puts that plan on hold for at least a short time. There’s an even smaller chance he puts Bargnani at center and Artest at power forward. Sooner or later (forget about later, just sooner) he’ll put K-Mart as his starting center. That part of the platoon will end.
How should Woodson handle it?
Everything points to the Knicks best odds being small ball. So the Knicks should Give Felton as many minutes as possible, then add a healthy dose of Shumpert, J.R. Smith, and Pablo. Sprinkle a little bit of Beno. Whatever minutes are left make a competition between Toure’ Murry and Tim Hardaway. Junior needs to start finding the bottom of the net, and not the side of the backboard. Maybe being pushed by a hungry guard with nothing to lose can straighten him out.
If the small ball isn’t working, put Metta in. When ‘Melo comes out, put Metta in. In a desparate moment, I’d even throw out an uber-small lineup with Metta as center for a minute or two. Mostly to see the opposing coach’s face, but also to give our centers a rest.
At center Woodson should play Cole Aldrich as much as possible. There’s no reason he can’t start. And it makes much more sense to use him instead of risking the health of K-Mart or Amar’e. Think about it. Even if the Knicks lose a half dozen games now, they’re more likely to succeed in the playoffs with Chandler, Martin, and Stoudemire all healthy.
I’d be fine with ending the platoon of K-Mart, but keeping it with Amar’e. In either case, keeping their minutes to a minimum is worth more than a November win against the Hawks, Celtics, or Cavs.
I know I’ve been beating the Aldrich drum for a while, but it’s the only logical conclusion. Playing Aldrich now will give the team an inkling if he’ll be useful later. I can guarantee that the Knicks will need a healthy third-string center at some point in the year. They might as well know now if Aldrich is the one, or if they should keep scouring the D-League. It makes much more sense than starting Bargnani, who just can’t handle the duties of an NBA center.
As for our Roman friend, I don’t know what I’d do with him. He’s clearly hasn’t fit in with this team, and I wouldn’t trust him manning the 5 for long stretches of time. Ultimately I think his role is at one of the forward spots. But right now I think the Knicks have more important matter to sort out. Like getting the Knicks’ City Dancers back on the floor.