Carmelo Anthony thrived last season on offense for the Knicks playing the four, the power forward spot — he could take bigger guys outside and beat them off the dribble, if teams went small against him he could post up.
But that creates some roster challenges for Mike Woodson this season because Andrea Bargnani, Amar’e Stoudemire. Kenyon Martin and C.J. Leslie play the four. Martin will mostly play backup center behind Tyson Chandler, but there are not enough standard lineup power forward minutes to go around.
Chris Herring proposed an answer at the Wall Street Journal — Bargnani at the three.
Here’s where the Knicks’ newest big man, Andrea Bargnani, comes in: Sliding the 7-footer over to small forward on defense could alleviate the problem and get Anthony more of the minutes he needs….
Beyond unclogging the team’s logjam at power forward, sliding Bargnani to the wing would better utilize his best defensive skill: defending jump shots, which he’s done at an elite level over the past two seasons, according to advanced metrics.
To quote one of the best Saturday Night Live fake commercials ever: Bad. Idea. Jeans.
There are a couple issues here. First, most small forwards don’t just shoot jump shots in the NBA — they can put the rock on the floor and drive the lane. You’re going to have Bargnani guard the likes of Paul Pierce, Josh Smith, Andre Iguodala, Chandler Parsons, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, and Rudy Gay?
The Washington Post story has former Raptors coach Sam Mitchell putting it this way:
“[Playing small forward on defense] takes a commitment to running, and he’s not gonna do that,” Mitchell said, adding that he briefly, and unsuccessfully, played Bargnani there during a 2008 playoff series against Orlando.
The Post story uses some of the Sports VU data — the high-tech cameras going into every NBA arena this year — and they found when Bargnani contested a shot he did it well. The problem was he was only within five feet of his man when the shot went up 21.9 percent of the time.
The Knicks are going to score points — for all the concerts about bad shots that Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith take, the Knicks had the sixth best offense in the NBA last season. Where they need to improve is defense — they need more out of Iman Shumpert, they added Metta World Peace, and Tyson Chandler still patrols the paint.
More Bargnani doesn’t help their defensive issues, we’ll see if he’s found his shot and can help on the other side of the court.