Assuming the New York Knicks use the same starting lineup they used at the end of last season, newly-acquired Andrea Bargnani and a slightly healthier Amar’e Stoudemire could provide quite a bit of scoring punch off the bench. Stoudemire’s athleticism may be in decline, but he’s still a very skilled scorer with an improving post game, and Bargnani still has the potential to be something of a (very) poor man’s Dirk Nowitzki.
However, for all their potential as partners on the offensive end, they both share one glaring weakness – defense.
Given that neither one of them is even remotely close to being able to guard small forwards, Mike Woodson would have to play them at power forward and center for them to share the court together. This would be an unmitigated disaster on the defensive end of the floor.
STAT is notorious around the league for his lack of awareness on the defensive end, and is often found way out of position as a help defender. He also has a habit of getting caught in an awkward space between corralling the ball handler and checking the roll man in the pick-and-roll, leaving him in a position where he is effectively guarding neither player.
Simply put, he is not effective at center, the position most vital to a modern NBA team’s defense. Last season, the Knicks’ most-used lineup featuring Amar’e at center was outscored by an insane 38.6 points per 100 possessions, per Basketball-Reference.com.
As such, he needs support from a defensive-minded player who can protect the rim. Bargnani is not that player.
While Bargnani has made some strides defensively under Dwayne Casey, he lacks both the athleticism and the timing to disrupt opponents’ offensive schemes. Those problems would only be compounded by the presence of Stoudemire, especially given the Knicks’ occasionally troublesome perimeter defense. Like Amar’e, he needs to play alongside either Tyson Chandler or Kenyon Martin.
There are also a few issues on the offensive end. Bargnani has shot poorly from three over the last few seasons, but he does have the ability to be a good shooter from outside under the right circumstances. While he was counted on to create his own shot previously, this will likely not be the case in New York.
With Stoudemire, Metta World Peace and Kenyon Martin all vying for minutes at the backup power forward spot, it’s unlikely that Bargnani will be a featured scorer.
Rather than using him like a lesser Dirk, the Knicks might be best served using him as a slightly more dynamic Steve Novak. Bargnani could be effective spotting up in the corner, providing spacing for Knicks pick-and-rolls, and he has enough one-on-one skill to make his man pay for playing him too tight unlike Novak, who has struggled with that in the playoffs.
While Andre Bargnani and Amar’e Stoudemire probably shouldn’t share the court too often, they could both be useful bench scorers for the Knicks. If they’re able to stay healthy, they should be able to take pressure off of Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith and give the Knicks some much-needed depth.