While Chandler was looking for a fresh start elsewhere, the Knicks parted with their best rebounder and interior defender. When healthy, he provided the Knicks with an active big man who was the last line of defense.
Now, the Knicks start the Derek Fisher era with uncertainty inside the paint. Yes, Carmelo Anthony can be a force on the boards. But does he have enough help inside?
Let’s start with Dalembert, who could be the starter. When given steady minutes, he can rebound and certainly can block shots. The 6-foot-11 center has career averages of 7.8 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game over his 12-year career.
Dalembert is probably at his most effective within a 20- to 25-minute range. Over the past six years, he has averaged no more than 25.9 minutes per game during a season. Last season, Dalembert played 20.2 minutes a game and averaged 6.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks for the Mavericks.
At 33, Dalembert should be able to provide the Knicks with rebounding and blocked shots but not heavy minutes.
The wild card for the Knicks could be 7-footer Jason Smith. He provides the Knicks with a center capable of burying the midrange jumper, rebounding and blocking shots. Smith, 28, averaged 9.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game in 31 games last season before missing time with a knee injury.
Smith has had trouble staying healthy, playing more than 50 games in a season only once in the past three years. But he could be a good fit in the triangle if he avoids injury.
Speaking of health, the Knicks would benefit if Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani can stay on the court. Stoudemire showed flashes last season of the old Amar'e, averaging 11.9 points and 4.9 rebounds in 22.6 minutes a game. It remains to be seen how he will fit in the triangle, but his ability to hit shots from the outside helps. Fisher shouldn’t use Stoudemire for a ton of minutes, obviously, due to his knees. But Stoudemire has said he feels better, and he is entering a contract year.
Bargnani, the 7-foot offensive-minded big man, might like playing in the triangle with his ability to shoot from the outside. He averaged 13.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 42 games, missing time with an elbow injury. Bargnani is also entering a contract year, so he should be motivated. Being reunited with Calderon also should help.
The Knicks may not have the offensive firepower inside like some of these other East playoff contenders. They don’t have one athletic big man who can log 30-plus minutes and be a surefire double-double guy. They will likely have to rely on Melo to be that force on the boards.
Fisher will have to go with size by committee. Where I see the biggest concern inside is defensively for the Knicks. There are some shot-blockers, but can they defend in the post? Will they be able to win the battle on the defensive boards?
Much of the answer rests with their health. If their bigs can remain active, the Knicks should have just enough size to be in contention for a playoff spot in the East.
Question: Do the Knicks have enough size to compete and be a playoff team?