Soft NY Knicks Frontcourt Still Needs a Rebounding Gut Check

Ciaran Gowan@@CiaranGowanContributor IIIDecember 10, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 02: Tyson Chandler #6 of the New York Knicks and Luis Scola #14 of the Phoenix Suns battle for position under the basket at Madison Square Garden on December 2, 2012 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

For all the success the New York Knicks have had early in the 2012-13 season, there are still a few kinks that need to be ironed out for them to stay amongst the best of the Eastern Conference.

Rebounding, in particular, is an area New York has struggled in tremendously in the opening weeks, and something that needs to be solved soon.

As it stands, the Knicks sit 27th in the league in rebounding, as one of only four teams pulling down less than 40 boards per game.

It isn't in the Knicks' DNA to be a dominant rebounding team—their wins have come from outside shooting and solid defense—but it's certainly something that they'll look to improve moving forward.

The first real issue is that, with injuries as they are, Tyson Chandler is the only player out there consistently cleaning the glass at a high level.

With a rebounding rate of 17.6, Chandler is the only Knick to rank in the top 34 players in that category, with the next in line being Rasheed Wallace at 16.1. The problem there, of course, is that as good as Sheed has been on a per minute basis, he's only playing 15 minutes per game.

Chandler himself started the season quite cold in terms of rebounding, and really hurt the Knicks by averaging only 7.2 per game in the first five contests.

With your starting 6'11" power forward Amar'e Stoudemire out injured, you can't afford your only true starting big man to rebound at such a poor level.

To start the month of December, however, Chandler has simply been dominant on the boards, averaging 13.8 in the first five games of the month. As a result, the Knicks have averaged 44.8 boards during December, well above their season average of 39.9.

Of course, it's not fair to expect Chandler to continue rebounding at this level all season long. Even in his fantastic 2011-12 campaign, he averaged less than 10 per game, as he has done for all but two of his 12 NBA seasons.

Put simply, Chandler needs some help.

Unfortunately, he's not receiving that help from the power forward position, as most centers do. Though Carmelo Anthony has done an admirable job on the boards for a player playing out of position, 6.7 per game just isn't going to cut it as a starting power forward.

Though Melo is strong for a small forward, he isn't strong for a power forward, and has struggled to bang with the taller and more powerful matchups he has had. The likes of DeJuan Blair and Zach Randolph have caused him some serious problems.

As a result, Mike Woodson has gone with Kurt Thomas at the 4 more recently, but as the oldest player in the league, playing more than 10 minutes per game on a regular basis is out of the question for him.

The only realistic fix right now is to squeeze as many rebounds as possible out of the wing players. 

Both Jason Kidd and Ronnie Brewer—the Knicks' starters at the 2 and the 3— are good rebounders for their position, but they will need to consistently clean the glass at a high level for the Knicks to be effective in that regard.

It's not ideal to ask your guards to help out so much on the boards, but with Stoudemire and Marcus Camby injured, there really is no other option right now.

Hopefully, that will only be a short-term thing. Camby is currently out with plantar fasciitis (via Newsday), but if he can get back on the floor soon he will be a huge help.

The Knicks' bench is where the problem really lies, with Sheed playing at center. Wallace was never a good rebounder at the best of times, but coming out of retirement and taking on more athletic bigs has only made things harder.

Put Camby in as the backup center, however, and things change dramatically. Camby was the league leader in rebounding rate last season, and was able to grab 9.3 per game in only 24 minutes of action.

To have that kind of production off the bench will add a new dimension to the Knicks, and possibly make them the most well-rounded team in the league.

So long as it doesn't come at the expense of his health, having Camby on the floor for 20 minutes or so each game could be the solution the Knicks are looking for.

Also helpful will be the return of Stoudemire, who is looking to make his season debut around Christmas time (via the New York Post), possibly coming off the bench.

Though STAT has never been a great rebounder, his impressive physique alone has been good for 8.8 boards per game for his career. Melo may not be able to challenge opposing power forwards physically, but at 260 pounds, Stoudemire definitely can.

To this point, the Knicks have been winning at a high level even without particularly good rebounding, but there's no guarantee that that will hold up all season long.

If nothing else, an improved effort on the boards—as well as some improved frontcourt health—will make wins a lot easier to come by.


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