In the New York Knicks' continued effort to build a grinding, defensive-minded squad, they recently acquired 2-guard Ronnie Brewer off the free-agent market for a one-year deal worth $1 million. Brewer is a terrific steal for the Knicks, and he should be a starter when the 2012 season begins.
While Brewer's offensive game is somewhat limited, his defensive skill set will blend in effectively under coach Mike Woodson's system, which places a strong emphasis on active perimeter defense.
Over the last two seasons as primarily a key bench player (26 minutes per game) with the Chicago Bulls, Brewer has ranked in the top 20 in defensive rating—which measures points allowed per 100 possessions.
The Knicks acquired Brewer, because their presumptive starter at the 2-spot, Iman Shumpert, is sidelined until January due to an ACL knee injury. Shumpert emerged in his 2011-12 rookie season as a tenacious, gambling defender. He averaged 1.7 steals a game and received four All NBA defensive first-team votes.
Inserting Brewer into the starting lineup over the injured Shumpert will keep the Knicks' defensive game plan in tact. There may be some added benefits to the lineup change.
Brewer is more steady at the offensive end of the floor than Shumpert, who developed a questionable reputation for taking misguided shots in 2011-12. He averaged nine shots per game on 40 percent shooting, including overzealous three-point attempts at only a 30 percent clip.
The veteran Brewer is by far more comfortable with being primarily a defensive stopper. Over the last two seasons, he averaged only six shots a game on a competent 46 percent shooting. Notably, Brewer doesn't hoist up unwarranted three-point shots.
Brewer's philosophy is paramount to the Knicks' success, as they will look to create as many high-percentage shots for its all-star front court of Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler. Brewer's controlled offensive game will allow for this game plan to optimize.
There will be some speculation that offensive powder keg J.R. Smith should start at 2-guard instead of Brewer when the 2012 season begins. Smith's 2011-12 scoring average of 12.5 PPG over twenty-seven minutes a game is double that of Brewer's over the same time period.
However, Smith has been the first man coming off the bench for the vast majority of his career. He's most valuable as a high-volume shooter and isolation player on the Knicks second unit—particularly when other teammates cannot find their own shot.
Smith is also a defensive liability who won't blend in with Woodson's defense-orientated system designed for the Knicks' starting line-up.
Notably, Brewer has more starting experience than both Smith and Shumpert. Between 2007-2009, Brewer was the starting 2-guard for the Utah Jazz. The Jazz amassed a 102-62 regular season during that stretch, with Brewer assuming his usual defensive-stopper role.
While that record does not imply that Brewer was the team's primary contributor, it shows that he can be a quality starter on an NBA contender.