The New York Knicks have been as active as any team in the NBA this offseason, pulling out blockbuster trades and high-profile signings at every turn. As their cap space rapidly decreases, however, their window of opportunity to improve is closing.
While both players may offer reason for intrigue, the Knicks must choose Kenyon Martin over Elton Brand as they pad their interior with one last big-name move.
New York has expressed interest in both veterans, as the team lives and dies by its defensive consistency. The addition of Andrea Bargnani and re-signing of J.R. Smith may help the offense, but neither is regarded as a defensive specialist.
Even as they age, however, both Brand and Martin remain two of the league's better interior reserves on both ends of the floor—the Knicks are interested in them for that very reason.
Each player has his strengths, but Martin takes the cake in this instance.
Brand and Martin are both older than 34, have more than 10 years of experience and come in with injury concerns. They're also past their prime, inching closer to retirement than another season of double-doubles.
With that being said, few players can provide the value that Brand and Martin individually possess—it just so happens that "K-Mart" is the better fit.
All About Familiarity
The New York Knicks finished the 2012-13 NBA regular season with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. Even as J.R. Smith disappeared during the 2013 playoffs, the Knicks managed to escape the first round for the first time since 2000 and prove their status as one of the best in the NBA.
While adding personnel can be a critical form of improvement, there's no reason to fix what isn't broken.
That's the case for Martin, who averaged 7.2 points and 5.3 rebounds in 23.9 minutes of action during 18 regular-season games for the Knicks. In that time, New York went 13-5 and stopped the bleeding after falling into a 15-15 rut in the 30 games prior to signing K-Mart.
Come the postseason, Martin's energy and defensive prowess helped the Knicks overcome Tyson Chandler's injuries and thus escape the Boston Celtics.
Martin may not be the game's most prolific player, but he's familiar with New York's system. Not only did he develop a rapport with his teammates, but Martin proved capable of providing quality play regardless of the minutes he received.
Plain and simple, the Knicks have already developed a system of trust with the 35-year-old. Why break that in hopes of receiving a similar boost from a different player?
As it presently stands, the New York Knicks have two power forwards in Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani. Both players have experience at center, which is important with Tyson Chandler's struggles to overcome injuries late in 2012-13.
With that being said, neither is a standout defender.
During the 2013 NBA playoffs, however, Martin showed that he has an explosive burst remaining in his legs. Not only is he still athletic enough to defend the pick-and-roll, but K-Mart is patient when he contests shots at the rim.
Most importantly, he's strong enough to serve as New York's enforcer at the 5 in an undersized lineup.
Martin stands at 6'9" and 240 pounds, which isn't too different from Brand's powerful stature. With that being said, Martin has long been used as an enforcer who bangs down low, crashes the boards and defends the post with active hands and disruptive length.
Brand may provide similar abilities, but Martin's defensive-minded approach is paired with something New York needs to complement Bargnani and Stoudemire down low—postseason experience.
Brand was the first overall draft choice in 1999 and has gone on to post career averages of 17.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. Martin was selected with the first overall selection in 2000 and developed into one of the top defensive forces in the NBA.
If one number puts career paths aside and makes Martin the choice over Brand in 2013, it's 82.
To date, Martin has played in 112 postseason games, starting 88 and making two NBA Finals appearances. Brand, meanwhile, has played in 30 career playoff games, a full 82 less than Martin.
There's your clincher.
K-Mart and Brand will provide similar contributions at this stage of their respective careers. When it comes down to whom the Knicks should add, however, it's all about making an impact in the playoffs and chasing a ring.
With a significant edge in postseason experience, Martin deserves to be signed over Brand.
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