The Knicks Small Forward Dilemma

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It’s no secret that the Knicks are notoriously slow starters in the 1st quarter.  It has become a growing trend where the Knicks open up with a dreadful 1st quarter, play a good 2nd quarter to cut the halftime deficit to a reasonable margin, trade leads in the 3rd and then hope to gain an edge in the 4th quarter and pull away.  Although the Knicks are statistically one of the best 4th quarter teams in the NBA (based on url-3point margin), they do not always play well enough in the second half to overcome  the deficit that was built in the 1st, especially against the better teams.  Perhaps the Knicks slow starts can be attributed to lack of effort, age, or the starting lineup.  All of these factors play some part in the sluggish starts, but I believe that the core of the problem lies with the small forward position.

Let’s wind the clock back 4 months, Iman Shumpert was still rehabilitating his torn ACL and starting in his place was the newly signed Ronnie Brewer.  The Arkansas native performed fairly well in Shump’s place, shooting 41% from 3 and pulling down 3.5 boards in only 22 minutes of action in November.  However, Brewer’s shooting dropped sharply in the month of December and he has not found his shooting stroke since.   Brewer wasn’t playing like a “defensive stopper” either, so eventually Coach Woodson relegated the 27 year old to the bench.  Now, Brewer rarely logs any minutes, coming in sporadically to replace Steve Novak to shore up the defense in a closing defensive possession.

Iman Shumpert has now taken over the starting small forward spot due to Brewer’s poor play even though the player known as “rook” is naturally a combo guard.  This is causing a whole new issue as Shumpert’s camp has grown unhappy with him playing the SF and they are asking Glen Grunwald to trade Shump?  However, rest assured that no trade involving the Knicks is expected to occur by Thursday’s deadline, especially one involving the promising young Knick.

If Brewer was still playing like he did in November, there is no doubt in my mind that he would replace Jason Kidd in the starting lineup as a small forward in order to allow Shumpert to start at shooting guard, his natural position.  Like Ronnie Brewer, the play of Jason Kidd has deteriorated and he has given the Knicks almost nothing over the past several weeks.  Of course, Kidd’s decline is due to the increased url-4workload he had to take while Felton was nursing a broken pinkie finger for about a month.  No way should Kidd play 30 minutes a night at his advanced age.  The Knicks need to save him for the playoffs when the games matter a whole lot more.

Not to be too hard on Ronnie Brewer, but the fact that Woodson no longer has any confidence in him to play significant minutes has hurt this team tremendously.  If Brewer were playing well, Woodson would happily take Kidd out of the starting lineup.  Regardless, Coach Woody is still thinking about tweaking his starting 5 and might very well reinsert Brewer as a starter after the All-Star break.  I think overall putting Brewer back into the starting lineup may be best for the team (unless Woodson inserts Chris Copeland instead).  Kidd needs his rest and he has been giving nothing as of late anyway, so replacing him with another guy who does nothing in order to keep Iman’s camp happy and allow Shump to develop more efficiently is probably best for the team.  Even though Brewer’s play is poor, at least the Knicks chose him over Landry Fields at $6 million annually, right guys?

 

Aaron Kopperl @AKop47 – Knickswag Contributor

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