Mike Woodson's only quality center is out four to six weeks due to a small non-displaced fracture in his right fibula, the Knicks reported:
During last night’s game versus Charlotte, Knicks center Tyson Chandler suffered a small non-displaced fracture of the right fibula.
— NY_KnicksPR (@NY_KnicksPR) November 6, 2013
Further tests this morning showed no ligament or nerve damage. Surgery is not required. He is expected to be out approximately 4-6 weeks.
— NY_KnicksPR (@NY_KnicksPR) November 6, 2013
After a 1-3 start, New York was already climbing an uphill battle in the East. Now with Chandler sidelined until sometime in December, the club has to do damage control in order to keep its playoff goals on track.
Carmelo Anthony and Co. will face a challenging stretch ahead. What are the best- and worst-case scenarios for the Knickerbockers as they operate without their big man?
Andrea Bargnani Overachieves as Pivot Man
Assuming the Knicks can't find a diamond in the rough outside the team, the in-house solution will involve heftier responsibilities for Andrea Bargnani, Kenyon Martin and Amar'e Stoudemire.
In all likelihood, it will involve Bargnani starting at center.
Mike Woodson is leaning toward that option, and said as much during an interview on ESPN Radio New York 98.7 FM, via Ian Begley of ESPN.
Bargnani hasn't exactly jelled with Anthony since donning the Orange and Blue, but in a lineup where Bargs is the 5 and 'Melo is the 4, things could be different.
Anthony may have more room to work with offensively in this scenario, whether it's from the elbow extended or on the block for post-ups. Bargnani's increased role gives him a chance to maximize his talent and show that he can score inside and out.
Woodson would be more than satisfied if Bargnani could score 13-15 points, grab a half-dozen boards and play the best defense of his career.
Small-Ball Lineup Thrives and Outscores Opponents
If the frontcourt (specifically the center position) can hold things together, the guards and wings should do a solid and efficient job on both ends of the court.
During their time together, Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni have proven to be a successful duo. They can both handle the ball or play off it. Extended work together could prove fruitful for the future.
In a small-ball lineup that includes Iman Shumpert, the Knicks would have at least two high-caliber perimeter defenders on the floor at the same time.
A plausible best-case scenario still leaves New York without much strong interior defense, so on many occasions, the Bockers will aim to outgun opponents and turn the game into a shootout. Fortunately, we know 'Melo can be lethal as a stretch 4.
In addition, rebounding help from Metta World Peace and a productive return from J.R. Smith would give the Knicks a fighting chance.
K-Mart and Stoudemire Platoon Is Stronger Than Expected
Kenyon Martin and Amar'e Stoudemire have made minimal contributions so far this season, largely due to injury-related minutes restrictions.
New York would present a much more robust attack on both ends of the floor if these veterans were close to full strength and forcing the Knicks staff to think about raising the minutes ceiling.
If Martin can deliver 15-25 minutes of defense and rebounding, New York can slow down most of the other undersized bigs. Meanwhile, a healthy Stoudemire would give Woodson a frontcourt scorer to help 'Melo, and more importantly, he would bring rebounding prowess.
Best-Case Schedule Outlook and Win-Loss Prediction
New York will play 15 to 20 games without Chandler, and while the schedule includes several games against upper-tier playoff clubs, there are a bunch of winnable games both at home and on the road.
I'm not going to sugarcoat it—the Knicks won't flirt with a .700 winning percentage while Chandler is out. But tilts against the Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards could give them confidence-boosting victories, perhaps fueling a couple upsets against the Western Conference powers and Eastern Conference bullies.
Best-Case Record Through Dec. 14: 12-11 (11-8 during Chandler's absence)
Bargnani's Porous Defense and Weak Rebounding Cripple Knicks
Woodson is a superb defensive coach who will try to get the most out of Bargnani, but there's a chance Bargs' below-average defense ruins New York's chance to maintain a winning record.
The Italian big man has never been considered a solid defender, nor has he ever put up big rebounding numbers. The disparity between he and Tyson Chandler is already colossal:
With Chandler on court, opponents averaging 92.9 points per 100 possessions. With Bargnani, 120.2 points per possession.— Scott Cacciola (@ScottCacciola) November 6, 2013
If he doesn't deliver his career-best performance in both categories, the Bockers will be in a world of trouble. It's going to be tough enough for New York to replace Chandler's energy and enforcer demeanor, much less his actual production.
Bargnani's career rebounding average is 4.8 per game. Falling below that mark while Chandler is out would be detrimental to the Knicks' possession-by-possession effectiveness.
K-Mart, Stoudemire and Outside Hires Don't Chip in Much
While we could see rapid improvement from the K-Mart-STAT platoon, there's also the chance they could remain banged up for weeks.
Prolonged ankle and knee issues would severely jeopardize New York's depth and Woodson's game-to-game flexibility.
Even if they are healthy, they might not cut it.
Martin is a smaller and less-effective version of Chandler on pick-and-rolls, and he can't provide the same type of bruising physicality on defense or on the glass. Stoudemire is also not a true center, and while he's more skilled offensively than Chandler, he can't duplicate the disciplined paint protection Tyson supplies.
In the event that Martin and Stoudemire come up small, the Knicks won't even be able to tread water.
Extensive Work in Post Too Much for 'Melo
During his stints at the 4 spot last year, Anthony excelled, and he's definitely a good fit as a stretch 4 for New York.
But his upcoming assignment might be overwhelming.
It's one thing to play the 4 when you have a grizzly bear in Tyson Chandler to guard the den. Power forward responsibilities take on a different meaning when your frontcourt counterpart is Andrea Bargnani or Amar'e Stoudemire.
'Melo will be counted on to haul in more rebounds than ever before, and he'll be tasked with more low-post defense than he usually handles.
Reminder: Anthony is 6'8" and not a standout interior defender. He's a capable player and a competitor at heart, but there's only so much he can do in his quest to compensate for Bargnani's weakness.
Worst-Case Schedule Outlook and Win-Loss Prediction
The worst-case scenario is all sorts of ugly.
New York was already struggling with Chandler in the fold, so its basement could be woefully low without him.
The Knicks have a handful of tough road games ahead, including a West Coast swing against high-powered offenses such as the Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers. They could potentially be miles behind the East's top eight come Christmastime.
Worst-Case Record Through Dec. 14: 6-17 (5-14 during Chandler's absence)