The 2012 New York Knicks provided their passionate fanbase with yet another illusion of legitimacy. Despite winning their first postseason game in upwards of a decade, the Knicks were dominated in their four other postseason contests against the Miami Heat.
Just as the detractors had expected, the Mecca of Basketball was not prepared for a winner.
In response to their shortcomings, the Knicks opted to build via free agency. They acquired the likes of Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace, bringing in a cast of crafty veterans with a championship pedigree.
In a move that went under the radar, the organization also signed shooting guard Ronnie Brewer to replace the injured Iman Shumpert.
Unfortunately, Brewer was sidelined by arthroscopic knee surgery (via ESPN.com) and spent his offseason recovering. According to Al Iannazzone of the New York Daily News, that recovery process could come to a close as soon as this week.
Mike Woodson said there is a ''possibility'' Ronnie Brewer could practice this week, perhaps as early as tomorrow.— Al Iannazzone (@Al_Iannazzone) October 16, 2012
He may not be the most powerful name on the roster, but Brewer is one of the most important players that the Knicks will fit into their rotation. With Shumpert sidelined for six to eight months as of April 29th, 2012, the team needs a defensive-minded shooting guard for roughly half of the regular season (via ESPN.com).
As long as Brewer remains healthy, the team will be able to thrive as planned. Should he fall victim to yet another injury, however, the Knicks will not be able to get off to as smooth of a start as they had planned.
Next In Line: Who?
Iman Shumpert will certainly be missed. He received Defensive Player of the Year votes as a rookie, which is impressive in its own right.
He also received votes as a perimeter player, which is quite rare in this day and age.
For that reason, the Knicks need to have a defensive stopper in his place. Ronnie Brewer has proven capable of being just that, which offers a sense of confidence as the Knicks insert him in either a starting or reserve role.
The question is, who would fill Brewer's shoes if he were unable to remain healthy?
J.R. Smith is capable of playing starter's minutes. For the period of time in which the mercurial scorer is resting, however, the Knicks would need to insert another player into their rotation.
In all likelihood, they'd go with a two-point guard set that includes a tandem of Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd or Pablo Prigioni. If not going small, the team would go with a player that they sign out of training camp or free agency.
In other words, if not Brewer, all there will be is uncertainty.
Been There, Done It
For those fearing Brewer's ability to step in and fill such a significant role, temper your fears. Brewer played in 147 of 148 regular-season games during the 2011 and 2012 regular seasons, averaging upwards of 20 minutes per game.
The franchise he played for just so happens to be the team that has ruled the Eastern Conference during the regular season for two years running: the Chicago Bulls.
With that experience behind him, it is plausible to believe that Brewer can fill Shumpert's void in an adequate manner. He's long been a defensive standout and often produces big things in small minutes.
With or without Iman Shumpert, Brewer has the experience to provide the quality defensive minutes that New York is in need of.
Ronnie Brewer has been in the NBA for six seasons. He was selected 14th overall in the 2006 NBA draft by the Utah Jazz and, since then, has made a postseason appearance in all but one of his years in the league.
Consider Brewer to be a natural-born, regular-season winner. Quite frankly, that is all that the Knicks truly need from him.
The team needs to win games during the regular season while Iman Shumpert is injured. After all, the former Georgia Tech star will likely reprise his role as the starter once healthy.
Regardless of how long we see Brewer play for, expect to see him affirm his status as one of the better perimeter defenders in the NBA.