Surprising Roster Moves NY Knicks Could Make Before Season Starts

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Surprising Roster Moves NY Knicks Could Make Before Season Starts
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport
Do not expect Mike Woodson to commit to Iman Shumpert as a starter.

The New York Knicks will not make any major moves prior to the start of the season, though Mike Woodson’s team has two starting positions and as many as three roster spots still up for grabs.

Whom the coach chooses to fill them may surprise you.

 

Cole Aldrich Could Make the Team

After three disappointing seasons, Cole Aldrich's NBA career appeared to be over. The 11th pick in the 2010 draft was unable to crack the rotation for three different teams last season and could not secure a guaranteed contract in the offseason.

Yet there is a strong possibility that the former University of Kansas star will be on the Knicks' opening day roster.

New York has 12 players signed to guaranteed contracts. Undrafted rookie C.J. Leslie and third-year power forward Jeremy Tyler are the favorites to nail down two of the remaining spots. That leaves one opening on the 15-man roster.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Cole Aldrich and Jeremy Tyler are two of the big men fighting for spots on the Knicks roster.

The Knicks have three veteran point guards (Raymond Felton, Pablo Prigioni and Beno Udrih) and a glut of wing players. Their biggest area of need is depth on the interior, particularly with Amar'e Stoudemire recovering from knee surgery and Tyler sidelined for the early part of the season following foot surgery.

New York has three big men with NBA experience in camp vying for that final roster spot: Aldrich, Ike Diogu and Josh Powell. Diogu and Powell are power forwards with minimal shot-blocking ability.

At 6'11'', Aldrich is a true center who can protect the rim. He has averaged 2.4 blocks per 36 minutes, per Basketball-Reference, in limited action during his career and has better rebounding numbers (10.4 per 36 minutes) than Powell (8.5 per 36) and Diogu (8.9 per 36).

The Knicks have just two centers on the team, Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin. Martin played very well down the stretch last season, but he turns 36 in December and has a history of knee problems.

Woodson is so concerned about Martin's ability to withstand the grind of an 82-game season that he has kept the veteran out of practices and plans on resting him for the team's first three preseason games, according to Al Iannazzone of Newsday.com.  

Aldrich served as Chandler's backup in the Knicks' first preseason game on October 9, and Woodson may want to keep him around as insurance in case Martin breaks down.

 

New York Could Sign Jason Collins

If Aldrich, Powell and Diogu fail to impress the coaching staff in training camp, management may search for another option. According to Al Iannazzone of Newsday.com, Woodson indicated that 12-year veteran Jason Collins "came up" this summer.

Collins, who became the first openly gay active NBA player in April, garnered minimal interest during the offseason and is not on a roster.

Collins is 34 and has not played over 50 games or averaged more than 15 minutes per game since the 2007-08 season (h/t Marc Stein).

Yet the seasoned veteran still has value as a post defender.

Steven Freeman/Getty Images
Jason Collins has drawn plenty of media attention since becoming the first openly gay active NBA player.

Marc Stein of ESPN.com discussed three reasons why Collins is not in a training camp:

1. Teams don't want to deal with the inevitable and intense media crush that comes with signing Collins during camp.

2. Collins' skill set has never been in less demand.

3. Teams don't want to face the fallout of having to cut him before the season starts.

Collins would be just another story in the city that never sleeps, and this veteran-laden Knicks team would not have a problem handling the media crush that came with him. By signing him late in training camp, New York would be committing to him for the foreseeable future and would not have to worry about cutting him before the season starts.

No. 2 on Stein's list could be the biggest issue. Collins' greatest skill is his post defense, and there is a dearth of post scorers in the league.

However, three of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference, the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers and Brooklyn Nets, have big, physical front lines, and Indiana's Roy Hibbert abused the Knicks in the post last postseason.

It may be a long shot for the Knicks to sign Collins before the start of the season, but it would not be shocking. 

 

Iman Shumpert May Be Named the "Temporary" Starting Shooting Guard

There is a strange uncertainty surrounding Iman Shumpert's status with the Knicks. The shooting guard is a budding star and by all accounts a beloved teammate.

Yet New York was reportedly willing to move him in order to land Steve Nash in 2012, and Stephen A. Smith said on air in July that Knicks owner James Dolan wanted to trade Shump because the guard did not want to participate in the summer league. 

Coach Woodson has also failed to demonstrate trust in the third-year player. He has had a quick hook on Shump. He was not always comfortable having the young guard on the floor in crunch time last season, though he was often willing to allow erratic sixth man J.R. Smith to shoot the Knicks out of games.

Still, it appeared to be a foregone conclusion that Shumpert, who started at small forward last season, would start once again.

When Woodson stated early in training camp that he wanted to start a traditional shooting guard instead of playing the two-point guard lineup that was so successful last season, Knicks fans assumed that Shump would be the starting 2-guard.    

Woodson prides himself on being a defensive coach, and Shumpert is the team's best perimeter defender. Plus, New York's second unit would struggle to score without Smith's ability to create his own shot.

So it came as a surprise when Woodson declared that there is an open competition between Shumpert and Smith for the starting 2-guard spot, per Ian Begley of ESPN New York.  

Woodson did concede that Shump "has a jump" on Smith because he is healthy, per Al Iannazzone of Newsday.com.

Smith's return date is uncertain after undergoing surgery on his left knee in July, though Woodson hopes to have him back for the Knicks opener. Once Smith is healthy, he will serve a five-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

Shump will start while Smith is out, but do not expect Woodson to commit to him long-term. The coach may even go out of his way to designate Shump's status as a starter "temporary" or "on a trial basis."

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