The Knicks capped off a successful offseason by agreeing to terms with free-agent wing man Ronnie Brewer on a one-year deal for the veteran's minimum of $1.4 million. The seven-year veteran is expected to hold down the starting shooting guard spot until Iman Shumpert returns from knee surgery in early 2013.
Brewer, who became an unrestricted free agent on July 10 when the Bulls declined to pick up his team option for $4.37 million, is an excellent addition for a Knicks team that desperately needed another shooting guard and only had minimum contracts to offer.
Best known for his tenacity and versatility on the defensive end of the floor, Brewer fits nicely with Coach Woodson's emphasis on team defense. He honed his skills under defensive guru Tom Thibodeau in Chicago over the past two seasons.
The veteran also has experience as both a starter and a reserve on playoff teams, so he won't be overwhelmed by his initial role and should make a smooth transition to coming off the bench once Shumpert returns.
Brewer's game is actually very similar to Shumpert's. Both are rangy 2-guards with quick feet. They're excellent on-the-ball defenders who are also adept at stepping into the passing lanes. Brewer is just a couple of inches taller and plays a little more physical. Offensively, they each lack consistency on their jump shots and are most effective when slashing to the basket.
The newest Knick will be tasked with locking down the opponent's best wing scorer. At 6'7'' he has the size and strength to cover bigger 2-guards and small forwards, which is crucial in a division that includes the Nets' Joe Johnson, the Celtics' Paul Pierce and the 76ers' Andre Iguodala.
Brewer's ability to guard small forwards will also allow Carmelo Anthony to play more minutes at the 4, where he played his best basketball last season. At power forward, Melo can use his quickness to exploit larger players and appears more comfortable banging in the paint than chasing wing men around screens.
With Brewer in the starting lineup, Woodson can use J.R. Smith as a sixth man, a role which Smith prefers and is best suited for with his streaky shooting.
Offensively, Brewer is not the prototypical shooting guard who can spread the floor by knocking down three-point shots. He has an unorthodox shooting technique, due to a childhood water slide accident, which affects his accuracy.
The former Bull connected on just 28 percent of his three-point attempts last season, which was actually an improvement over his career average of 24 percent from behind the arc.
His midrange shooting has been nearly as dismal. According to Hoopdata.com, his career shooting percentage on shots from 10 to 15 feet is 35 percent and he has connected on just 33 percent of his attempts from 16 to 23 feet. He also shot a dreadful 54 percent from the free-throw line last season.
But the Knicks don't need Brewer to score. Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire are expected to carry the load. If Woodson needs another shooter on the floor, he can insert Smith or long-range gunner Steve Novak.
Brewer rebounds well for a guard—he averaged 5.1 per 36 minutes last season—and has the athleticism to fill the lane and finish on the fast break. He relies on timely cuts to the basket in half-court sets for easy baskets and to keep defenses honest, much like the man he's replacing in the Knicks' backcourt, Landry Fields.
By comparing Brewer and Fields' production you can understand Brewer's value to the Knicks. The two posted strikingly similar offensive numbers last season and Brewer is by far the superior defender.
Instead of matching Fields' offer sheet with the Raptors for $20 million over three years, the Knicks scooped up Brewer for the bargain basement price of $1.4 million. In an offseason full of big moves, signing Ronnie Brewer may have been the Knicks' best deal of all.
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