Dalembert for the defense!
Amidst the Carmelo Anthony hoopla keen observers of the New York Knicks if not the leagues historical past are aware that while the team looks pretty good heading into tonight's match up with the World Champion Lakers they'll need some length and added toughness up front to compete with the big boys come April.
While bringing in Anthony would be outstanding, (besides his ability to put the ball in the hoop he adds about eight rebounds per game), if adding the Denver superstar means sacrificing some combination of Landry Fields, Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, two of the three, then realistically speaking how much better can 'Melo actually make the New Yorkers over the balance of the 2010/2011 season?
On the other hand, a move to supplement the teams strength at center, something that might cost the Knicks a player they won't really miss, (namely Anthony Randolph, or even the combination of Randolph, Kalenna Azubuike, even an expiring contract), can't help but be a real and immediate upgrade to the roster as it is presently configured.
Thus far the teams defensive middle has been exclusively manned by the combination of Amare Stoudemire and Ronnie Turiaf, while the big Russian rookie Timofey Mozgev has been a complete washout on either side of the court.
Knick fans had a pretty good idea of what they were getting in Stoudemire, but I don't think too many realized what the team was getting in the Frenchman Turiaf.
At 6-9 he has a natural instinct for shot blocking, (1.3 per game in 18 minutes), great hands around the basket and has really surprised everyone with his ability to finish so smoothly inside.
He's got bad knees though, has already had to sit some thus far in the early season, (coinciding with a terrible stretch for the team which was reversed upon his return), and while it doesn't appear to be a real noose around his or the teams neck, realistically speaking Turiaf is best suited to fifteen or twenty very productive front court minutes a night coming off the teams pine.
Of course Mike D'Antoni can manage that contributory notion quite well right now as a healthy Gallinari, Chandler, Fields, Felton and A.S. are getting the large majority of the court time anyway. Throw in a back up point Toney Douglas and welcome sharpshooter Shawne Williams and there are only so many minutes to divide amongst this eight much less another added part, requisite or otherwise.
But that doesn't mean the Knicks will be able to just run up and down the court and win with their current style of play come post season time.
Endlessly we've seen even the greatest examples of high paced Showtime become relegated to the half court game with all the playoff marbles on the line. The contests become endlessly fierce down low, physical, each possession a major mission onto itself and in this low block or paint area New York would benefit greatly from a player with Dalembert's skill set.
A shot blocker, good rebounder, not a hefty guy, but a player that makes his presence known in the defensive middle.
Thus far in 2011 big Sam is struggling in Sacramento. The Kings traded a couple of parts away for him and expected more than the 20 minutes or so per evening Dalembert has been allotted thus far by coach Paul Westphal.
For their 13 million, a horrible Kings team needed much more, maybe more than Dalembert has to offer even under the best of circumstances. He's never going to be a player who will blossom into an offensive star. He's mobile for a big man, can score off the break, off put backs, but he certainly isn't capable of being the focus of a half court set.
And that would suit the Knicks just fine. Dalembert would be brought in almost exclusively for his defensive instinct, allowing Amare to take the occasional play off on the defenders side of the court where he's been forced into the role of shot blocking focal point when Turiaf is sitting on the bench.
What's even better about Sam Dalembert is he's in the final year of his contract. The Knicks would be on the hook for not a spanking new penny next year if they chose not to bring him back.
Other teams will of course know this as well and Dalembert won't come without a price tag. Maybe young Anthony Randolph would be worth accepting from the Kings point of view. He hasn't performed for the Knicks in limited opportunities but given some real playing time in Sacramento the 22 year old might just pick his game up and go on to realize the athletic upside that had the Knicks so interested in him to begin with.
However it's accomplished, a player of Dalembert's mettle will be needed if, (and we realize it's still a very big if), and when it comes time to square off against the likes of a Boston or Miami in the playoffs.
Come the stretch run or playoff time a team get never be too deep up front. The Knicks have all the scorers they can handle, but they could sure use a seven footer who can do more than just take up space, but impose himself on the opposition even if it's strictly in a rebounding, shot blocking, put back type of role.
That's the NBA my friends. For now Dalembert's out there, whether or not the Knicks can, or are even interested in reeling him in remains to be seen.
And with that we bid you good night from the Garden,
Add On 1/10/2011: Who else? Tayshaun Prince, who's long in his own way and still very productive, is on an expiring contract. So is aging vet, Shane Battier.
You've got Nene with a player option for 2011/2012 @ 11 mill, he'd be ideal. David West is also on a player option for 2011/2012 but he's a swing forward type and might not represent much of an upgrade for the Knicks. (I could see Denver moving Nene if they plan on blowing up the team in full, but I don't see West leaving New Orleans this year.)
As a whole best guy the Knicks could grab is Indy center Roy Hibbert who gets short money for 2012 & 2013, (couple of million per), but that'd take some majestic string pulling from Donnie Walsh.
Hibbert's averaging 13 points, 8 bounds, 2 blocks and still has plenty of upside in him.
That'd be a coup for the Knicks.