When last season began, it looked like the New York Knicks were buying in to the Mike Woodson approach and preaching, which was about defense before everything, including for Carmelo Anthony. As the season unfolded, it was clear to see it wasn’t the case, and it’s hard to think that it will change with Andrea Bargnani joining the roster.
Bargnani is a big man who can score in a variety of ways, but fails to bring to the table what you usually expect from a 7-footer: Rebounding, defense and paint presence. This means Bargnani will be another player who can score, but unlike Amare Stoudemire doesn’t rebound very well, and like Amare, isn’t very interested in working hard on the defensive end.
But for the last couple of seasons in New York, defense has been about Tyson Chandler covering for everyone. Iman Shumpert is a good one on one defender on the perimeter, but Chandler is what makes the difference for the Knicks, as long as he isn’t destroyed in the paint by someone like Roy Hibbert.
While Mike Woodson has admitted that the biggest challenge with Bargnani is bringing him up to speed on the defensive side, the offensive flexibility he brings to the Knicks is quite interesting. As teams try more and more to stretch the floor, Bargnani (a 36.1% career shooter from beyond the arc) will provide something special as a stretch 4 or even a 5. It might mean more small lineups with Anthony as the power forward again, where he spent playing most of last season, but the Knicks know they need to change more than just personnel from last season.
There are more problems to be concerned about. Not being recently-off-an-injury anymore, Amare Stoudemire might not be the happiest player in the world to be coming off the bench as a sixth man. While it once again gives the Knicks a reliable second unit of J.R. Smith and Stoudemire, two players who are starters for most NBA teams on paper, it does create an issue with spreading the wealth and obviously ego.
Most seem to think that adding Bargnani to this already unbalanced roster that relies too much on selfish shooters like Anthony and Smith, caring too much about their own shot than doing what’s right for their team, isn’t the smartest of moves. But the Knicks had to do something.
Stuck with huge contracts for Chandler, Anthony and Stoudemire (making $21.6 million next seaosn!), pulling off a risky trade, while keeping J.R. Smith, was possibly the best thing they could do, hoping that relying on offensive talent will be enough to put them in the Eastern Conference Final for the first time in over a decade.