Have you ever heard the saying, “Basketball players are made in the summer”? Well, championship-caliber teams are as well, and during this offseason, it is apparent that the New York Knicks are a testament to just that.
Regardless of which way one might try and cut it, no team, in any sport, can contend for a championship unless significant improvements are made.
How great it is for Knicks fans that general manager Glen Grunwald has delivered on his promise to be more “creative” in acquiring talent, per Newsday’s Al Iannazzone.
Although the addition of guys like Metta World Peace, Beno Udrih and Andrea Bargnani have surprisingly flown under the radar—in comparison to a number of transactions that have taken place throughout the summer—the Knicks have finally acquired multiple players who can help them in their quest for championship gold.
Metta World Peace
World Peace returns home to New York City.
Has a ring to it, doesn’t it?
Scooping up the 33-year-old after he was waived by the Los Angeles Lakers was a shrewd move by the Knicks simply because he will go hard every single night, and he will prove to be a pillar of consistency like he has been throughout his career.
Sure, we’ve laughed and shook our heads in bewilderment while observing the countless antics that World Peace has supplied over the years. But one key trait that gets overshadowed within the plethora of qualities that make up World Peace is that he is trustworthy.
Remember when Kobe Bryant uttered at one point (via Sporting News’ David Steele) that World Peace was the only one on the Lakers roster who he could “rely on night in and night out” and trust to perform with “a sense of urgency” consistently?
While 12 points per game pales in comparison to what he’s done over his career, World Peace’s performance last season showed that he still has a lot left in the tank.
World Peace held opponents to 37.3 percent shooting when defending in isolation situations, per Synergy Sports (subscription required). Overall, he limited opponents to a woeful 40.8 percent shooting from the field.
I don’t know about you all, but to me, the above statistics are the definition of putting in work.
Now, his individual performance on defense might not be enough to alleviate the Knicks’ lack of cohesiveness on that end, for as a collective, they have to make communication a primary point of emphasis.
Up in years, basketball-wise that is, World Peace will experience the inevitable decline in activity on that end of the floor, simply because age catches up to players—and it usually shows on defense more so than on offense.
Nonetheless, consistency is exactly what Knicks fans have longed for. And with World Peace, they will definitely receive just that.
Projected Stats Per Game: 7.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 34 percent from downtown and opponents held to 41.2 percent shooting in isolation situations
Yes, Udrih is finally on a winning team!
Finally, he has made a George and Weezie Jefferson-like rise to the top and has the potential to be a key contributor for his new team.
One aspect of this addition, that really stands out in my mind, is the infinite possibilities in pick-and-roll situations that the Knicks now have.
Last season, Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler murdered teams in this area of play.
As the roll man while running the pick-and-roll, Chandler made 67.1 percent of his attempts, according to Synergy Sports.
For those who aren’t quite familiar with Udrih, the pick-and-roll is his entrée of choice.
Last season, 32.8 percent of Udrih’s possessions ended with him as the ball-handler in the pick-and-roll. What’s cool about this is that head coach Mike Woodson can place Udrih with any group on the court—he’s that versatile.
He can play as a facilitating point guard or at the 2, which will allow for him to play alongside either Felton or Pablo Prigioni if Woodson chooses to do so.
Playing with guards like Felton, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, all of whom love to attack the basket, will open up even more space on the perimeter.
Plus, with Smith recovering from knee surgery, Udrih will be able to fill in whenever he is needed. This is a great situation the team is in, for all parties should benefit vastly from the improved three-guard rotation at the 1 that the Knicks now boast.
Honestly, this move may turn out to be the greatest low-risk, high-reward acquisition of the entire offseason.
Projected Stats Per Game: 6.0 points, 3.4 assists, 82 percent from the free-throw line and 45 percent shooting from the field
Ah, a stretch big man, something the Knicks could certainly use.
Upon hearing that Bargnani would be on his way to NYC, Spike Lee probably was ecstatically running around while attempting to say, “orange and blue skies” in Italian.
I'm just kidding.
All jokes aside, before we dig deeper into Bargs and what he brings to the team, it’s understandable that some may not be particularly thrilled with this acquisition.
First off, one would think Bargnani would be a double-digit rebounder, seeing as he is seven feet tall for crying out loud.
Well, he is not a double-digit rebounder.
He never has been and probably never will be.
See, rebounding is an art, much like painting a portrait.
No one can sit down after 10 sessions in front of a blank canvas and suddenly start creating majestic landscapes like the late oil-painting-extraordinaire Bob Ross could, for it takes a great deal of practice to be able to stroke a brush with precision and excellence.
If you think you can (which I strongly doubt), maybe you should have your own Saturday morning show on PBS. Just like painting—and anything else for that matter—rebounding is all about repetition.
The more you do it, the better you become.
One can attempt to become a better rebounder by putting in countless hours in the gym. However, nothing levels up to battling for position constantly during an actual game.
And you know what, it’s alright that Bargnani isn’t a great rebounder.
Sure, it would be great if he was.
But he is not, and we should just accept that it isn’t a major facet of his game.
Although we whine and complain about big men like him who don’t exert effort on the glass, we should do away with the negativity and appreciate the other qualities he brings to the table.
Throughout his seven years with the Toronto Raptors, he shot 43.7 percent from the field and 36.1 percent from three.
Now, to some those numbers may not seem very productive for a player who is supposedly a spectacular marksman from deep.
In this case, it is imperative that all are cognizant of the fact that, for years, Bargnani played for a team that featured only one playmaker, Jose Calderon, who was capable of generating offense.
And when the Raptors brought in Kyle Lowry to make things happen on that end, Bargnani was seldom present to be the beneficiary of crisp dimes because of nagging injuries that plagued him throughout his final two years with the team.
Arriving in New York will give him ample opportunities to fill it up from the perimeter, as the bulk of defensive pressure will be applied to stopping Smith and Carmelo Anthony in isolation situations and the pick-and-roll, in general.
Like Bleacher Report’s Dan Favale pointed out, Woodson can play Bargnani at the 3, the 4 or the 5 because of his ability to space the floor.
I know I’ve run the point of executing the pick-and-roll into the ground, but again, the team will prosper if they make it a point of emphasis to run a series of complex off-ball and on-ball screens, rather than a simple two-man sequence.
Think about it: Movement is the key to a successful, potent attack on offense.
Yes, the Knicks have a productive offense.
However, think about how much better they would be if they operated more off the ball.
If Bargnani and the rest of the Knicks can avoid becoming stagnant and continually strive to work their way into space, this will be a smash mouth onslaught that will be nearly impossible to stop.
If they can manage to do that, Bargnani and the Knicks will find themselves playing well into June.
Projected Stats Per Game: 14.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, 0.8 blocks and 42 percent from downtown
Note: The bulk of the statistics presented in this piece are by way of Synergy Sports (subscription required).
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