The New York Knicks were considered the only team in the Eastern Conference with enough firepower to defeat the NBA Champion Miami Heat during the 2012-2013 regular season. They were the best team in the Atlantic Division and went into the playoffs as the second best team in the the East with a 54-28 record — their first 50 win team in over 10 years. They were the early favorite to meet the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals as well, but the Indiana Pacers had other ideas. Their core of front court players just out hustled, out muscled and out-scored the Knicks’ front court, much to the surprise of New York’s big men.
Did you see the look on Tyson Chandler‘s face as Roy Hibbert scored on him time and time again? How about the look on coach Woodson’s face as David West, Paul George and Lance Stephenson out muscled the considerably more brawny Knicks. New York didn’t have a player average double-digit rebounds for the entire series versus the Pacers. Meanwhile, Indiana got 10 boards per game from Hibbert and they also got around seven boards apiece from small forward Paul George, shooting guard Stephenson, and power forward David West. New York would lose their playoff match up against Indiana and would watch the Pacers push the eventual NBA champion Miami Heat to seven games using gang rebounding tactics and consistent scoring from their bigs.
The Knicks also watched as the Heat went on to face the San Antonio Spurs, who were also able to push the Heat to the brink in much the same way as the Pacers. So, what do the Pacers and Spurs have that the Knicks lack? They each have big men who can score on their own. Though there are many NBA bigs who are physically capable of scoring with their back to the basket, very few of them prefer to score in this manner. But Hibbert, West and Tim Duncan are apparently not among that number.
Though the Knicks have a plethora of big men, most are among that number. The closest thing they have to a consistent low-post threat is Carmelo Anthony, but he would just as soon bomb away from 3-point range than post up. In fact, Andrea Bargnani, Amar’e Stoudemire, Kenyon Martin and all other offensively-capable Knick bigs would prefer shooting jump shots to anything else. Notice I didn’t mention Chandler here? Well, I did use “offensively capable” as a disclaimer, did I not?
This offseason the Knicks’ fans have been talking that usual New York smack. You know, the smack they talk each year the team comes off a season in which they had a playoff bid. But, judging from the pieces they have accumulated thus far, the NBA Finals are yet another pipe dream without a low post scoring threat. A brawny psychopath who is all hook shots, rebounds and razor sharp, chin-seeking elbows would be nice. While Stoudemire is no psychopath, nor is he partial to rebounding, he showed a plethora of low post moves in a concerted effort to become more of a traditional power forward last season — likely the result of an offseason learning new dance moves from the great Hakeem Olajuwon.
Unfortunately, his brittle bones did not hold up long enough for us to see him in action for more than a few weeks at a time. The newswires are ablaze with rumors of the Knicks’ front office in discussions with such low post scoring threats as Cole Aldrich, Earl Barron, Jason Collins, and Shavlik Randolph (insert scathing sarcasm here). It appears as though Aldrich will be the best fit here, though he isn’t at all offensive-minded. Perhaps his sense of humor is because his game certainly is not. In the meantime, all self-contained low post scoring will fall in the hands of Anthony and Stoudemire.
Unless Chandler is suddenly capable of performing an up and under move without traveling, his scoring opportunities are limited to offensive put backs and lobs. Only time will tell, but the Knicks’ lack of front court scoring is glaring. This is especially so when we are reminded that skilled big men have the potential to be to the Heat as silver bullets are to werewolves, and Patrick Ewing isn’t walking through that door anytime soon.