The New York Knicks, barring any signings between now and the end of the month, will enter training camp with 14 players under contract. This leaves just one roster spot up for grabs in camp, but there are still some details to be ironed out over the next several weeks.
As far as that last spot goes, the team could go in a number of directions. The obvious choice would be to bring in depth at the center position, enabling Mike Woodson to spell Tyson Chandler with someone of similar true-center size.
This deficiency led to Chandler's playoff downfall last spring, and the team only has Kenyon Martin available as a reliable defensive replacement. Summer league standout Jeremy Tyler was brought in for this exact reason, but the 22-year-old could miss up to the first six weeks of the season after foot surgery.
ESPN's Marc Stein reported on Sep. 5 that Toure' Murry will look to build on his impressive summer stint with New York by accepting its invitation to camp, turning down an offer from the Miami Heat. Stein's sources suggested that high praise from Knicks legend and broadcaster Walt Frazier played a part in Murry's decision.
Murry displayed his hard-nosed all-around game in Las Vegas, showing how valuable he could be to a Knicks team that was so desperate for backcourt defense last year. According to 82games, opposing point guards posted a PER over 17 against the Knicks, a mark well above any other position.
Opponent Production by Position
Murry's athleticism and tendency to rush passing lanes—combined with his well-rounded offensive game—could be enough to earn him a spot on the final roster, should the Knicks decide their frontcourt depth is sufficient.
The Knicks have a bit of a logjam in the backcourt with three veteran point guards under contract, but Murry could still be in play. J.R. Smith will be missing from the rotation for at least the first week-and-a-half, with news breaking on Sep. 6 of the sixth man's five-game suspension.
He could potentially miss more time than that, however, as the suspension won't begin until the Knicks declare Smith fully healthy (via Marc Berman). He underwent knee surgery over the summer, and his return for opening night wasn't yet clear.
The team can still count on Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway Jr. to shoulder some of the scoring load in the interim, but Murry would instantly become the second-best two-way player on the team, behind Shumpert. Far too often in 2012-13, the Knicks would falter on one end of the court due to the deficiencies of their one-dimensional lineups.
Pairing Murry and Shumpert in the same lineup could help eliminate that issue.
To add to the backcourt camp competition, the Knicks also invited J.R.'s brother Chris Smith, per an Ian Begley tweet last month.
After a knee injury cut off Smith's NBA dreams last fall—he was invited to camp last season as well before hurting himself—J.R.'s little bro was determined to get another shot with the Knicks. That shot will come later this month.
Judging by the last two Las Vegas Summer Leagues, Chris Smith's performance doesn't seem to be consistent with what we see from NBA guards—even 15th men. His handle is far too loose, his shots seldom accurate, his defending active but often ill-advised.
With Louisville from 2010-2012, Smith shot 43 percent and added 9.5 points per game, while coming away with 0.9 steals.
Smith's stint in Greenburgh, NY—where the Knicks train—will likely serve as a showcase for D-League teams, rather than a true chance for the remaining roster spot. Twice, now, Smith has failed to impress, and the invite seems more of a courtesy to the Smith family than anything else.
Regarding the frontcourt sans Tyler, the Knicks have had rumored interest in a bevy of big men as of late. Hassan Whiteside (via Alex Kennedy), Renaldo Balkman (via Jean Marco), Hamed Haddadi (via Frank Isola), Lou Amundson (via Jared Zwerling) and even players from overseas leagues (again via Jared Zwerling) have been connected to the Knicks, at least on Twitter.
The signing of a veteran would eliminate any true "competition" in camp, but wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing for the team, desperate for a defending, rebounding body.
Pertaining to in-house battles, newcomer Andrea Bargnani should compete with fellow overpaid scorer Amar'e Stoudemire for minutes at the power forward.
With Carmelo Anthony likely spending most of his time at the small forward once again this season, duties at the 4 will be left mostly to Bargnani and S.T.A.T., assuming both are healthy. Stoudemire is unlikely to exceed 20 minutes nightly in his role (via the New York Post), which leaves approximately 25 minutes to the Italian 7-footer.
But crunch-time lineups are still far from determined, and training camp will have a lot to do with how Mike Woodson develops trust in his big-man scoring threats.
Glen Grunwald now has four training camp invites left in his back pocket, so there should be more additions in New York this month. With Smith's suspension and Tyler's injury opening up potential spots for both smalls and bigs, it'll be worth monitoring how the front office measures its next move as the season quickly approaches.
Follow me on Twitter at @JSDorn6.
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