Our positional preview of the 2013-14 New York Knicks roster concludes with the men in the middle, the centers who will anchor the paint for the Knicks as they look to make a deep playoff run this season. At the 5, the Knicks have two veterans providing the interior defense, rebounding and shot blocking that will be essential to their success and a young player fighting for his place in the league. Check out our breakdown of the Knicks’ centers this season and what we can expect to see from them as far as production.
The anchor of the Knicks’ defense and the vocal floor leader, Tyson Chandler returns after a successful 2012-13 campaign that saw him selected in his first NBA All-Star Game. Chandler, now 30 years old, is a towering defensive specialist and a highly efficient inside finisher on offense which makes him an intergral part of the Knicks and is one of the most important factors to their hope for improvement in 2013-14. In 66 games, Chandler averaged 10.4 points, 10.7 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and averaged an unbelievable .638 percent from the field. His overall impact defensively may have dipped slightly from his Defensive Player of the Year winning season, but he remains the key to the entire scheme defensively for New York and will look to have a huge impact on that side of the court again this season.
A former NBA champion with the Dallas Mavericks and a fiery competitor, Chandler and the Knicks are looking to take the next step and reach for more playoff success this season. He needs to stay healthy and focused through the course of the regular season and the Knicks will be hoping he can return to the form that won him DPOY in 2011-12. Signed at more than $14 million a season for this and next season, Chandler is firmly embedded as the Knicks starter at the 5, he is the defensive leader, an experienced championship veteran and the team will heavily rely on him to have a big impact this season. The addition of Kenyon Martin, this time for an entire season, will help to limit Chandler’s minutes somewhat and hopefully keep him healthy for the playoffs. Even with a slight reduction in playing time, expect to see Chandler around the 10 and 10 mark again with his usual impact on the defensive end and insane efficiency as he finishes inside.
Veteran big man Kenyon Martin joined the Knicks late last season when injuries struck the frontcourt and he was able to make an instant contribution. His defensive tenacity, shot blocking and rebounding were a huge boost to a frontcourt that struggles in that area when Chandler is unavailable or on the bench. In 18 games, 11 of which he started, he averaged 7.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, nearly a block and steal per game and shot better than 60 percent from the field. While at 6’9”, Martin is undersized at the 5 and has played the majority of his career at power forward, he is able to replicate Chandler’s defensive impact and play the center role off the bench.
Now 35, Martin is an experienced campaigner. He has played in two NBA Finals, was a former No.1 pick, played in an All-Star Game and recently had a stint playing overseas. He proved that he still has a lot left in the tank in 2012-13 and the Knicks will be hoping he can replicate that impact this season. Martin’s minutes will likely fluctuate with the health of the Knicks’ frontcourt. When the entire roster is healthy, he may only see limited minutes as the team tries to incorporate newcomer Andrea Bargnani into the lineup. However, Martin will likely see decent stretches of the season as a starter and come playoff time will be expected to make a solid contribution in 15 to 20 minutes per game. The seven points and five rebounds Martin produced last season will be around the same level we can expect to see again in 2013-14. If he can continue to provide high levels of energy, defense and efficient scoring he will be a valuable contributor for New York.
Nothing is guaranteed for young big man Cole Aldrich as he battles for a spot on the final roster in the preseason. The 24-year-old Aldrich has played three seasons in the NBA with only limited chances to prove he is an NBA caliber center. He will battle with Ike Diogu, Josh Powell and other camp invitees for a place on the Knicks’ regular season roster, but Aldrich’s size may give him an advantage over the others. At nearly 7-feet tall, Aldrich has the size to play the 5 and with the lack of depth at the position he may prove to be the best emergency option for New York. Last season, where he split time between Houston and Sacramento, Aldrich averaged 2.2 points and 2.7 rebounds per game while shooting .550 from the floor. The remaining preseason games and his work in training will determine whether he makes the final squad, but his size gives him an advantage that may prove to be the difference when it comes to making the final cuts. If he makes the roster, don’t expect anything other than spot minutes in case of injury or blowouts.