NBA PM: Time to Credit Grunwald for Knicks’ Offseason
Say what you want about the age (Jason Kidd, Pablo Prigioni) or conditioning (Raymond Felton) of the New York Knicks’ point guards, the chemistry of forwards Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire or even the way the team handled Jeremy Lin’s contract situation.
What you absolutely cannot criticize is the way general manager Glen Grunwald has filled out the team’s bench.
Like MacGyver building a hot air balloon out of stacks of newspapers, Grunwald has used a favorable labor ruling, the reduced mid-level exception and the expired contracts of bench players to conjure up an elite reserve unit.
In his latest stroke of sanity—a strange phenomenon for the Knicks’ front office—Grunwald declined to match Landry Fields’ three-year, $20 million offer from the Toronto Raptors, instead reportedly signing Ronnie Brewer for one year at the veteran’s minimum (Brewer confirmed the signing on Twitter and NBA.com’s David Aldridge is reporting that the deal is for one season).
Yes, Fields had fans at Madison Square Garden. He even played a pivotal role on two playoff teams. But in a side-by-side comparison with Brewer, Fields’ production fails to impress.
The 24-year-old Fields has a better career scoring average (9.3 points per game to 9.0) and he had a better rebounding rate last season than the former Chicago Bull (8.5 to 7.9); but the pair had the same assist rate (20.0) and Fields had a significantly higher turnover rate (12.1 to 8.6) in 2011-2012 than Brewer did.
The biggest difference may be on the defensive side where Fields’ mediocre athleticism undermined his intelligence. Brewer is generally considered a plus defender with solid athleticism, even if he is three years older than Fields.
Brewer’s immediate role is clear. He’ll be taking Iman Shumpert’s minutes while last year’s rookie sensation recovers from a torn ACL. When Shumpert does return, Brewer can fill a back-up role at shooting guard and small forward along with recently signed swingmen J.R. Smith and James White.
Brewer’s signing may put a fitting end to a surprisingly productive offseason in New York.
At first, the Knicks seemed poised for a brutal summer given their lack of a first-round draft pick and unfavorable cap situation. The team maintained its confidence in re-signing Lin, a restricted free agent, but players like Steve Novak and Smith seemed lost. Then an independent arbitrator ruled in favor of granting Bird rights and early-Bird rights to qualifying waived players in June, and suddenly the Knicks were able to exceed the salary cap to keep Novak while saving the mini mid-level exception for Kidd.
And while many Knicks fans are upset over the loss of Lin, Grunwald provided a remarkable silver lining by adding Felton in a sign-and-trade deal for spare assets like Jared Jeffries, Dan Gadzuric, the rights to two European players and a second-round pick. Yes, Lin is younger and more athletic than Felton, but the latter has experience playing with both Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler.
It’s worth noting that Lin’s best basketball came in February, while Anthony recovered from a groin injury; and Anthony won Eastern Conference Player of the Month in April without Lin, who was dealing with a knee injury. As good as Lin was, it’s hard to argue that he and Anthony fit together, and since Melo already had a max deal with the team, Grunwald opted for a less-expensive solution (exponentially less expensive considering the luxury tax situation).
Knicks fans also shuddered at the thought of trading three young players (Toney Douglas, Josh Harrellson and Jerome Jordan) to the Houston Rockets for Marcus Camby—a player old enough to share a teammate (John Long) with Bob Lanier—but that’s a bad way to look at the transaction.
It’s important to remember that Douglas was excluded from the rotation by both Mike D’Antoni and Mike Woodson while Jordan looked awkward in his brief appearances at the NBA level. Harrellson did fill a role for the Knicks, but it’s a role Camby has already mastered.
Even at 38, Camby still led the league in rebounding rate while playing 22.9 minutes per game last season (that means he rebounded a higher percentage of missed shots when he’s on the floor than any other player in the NBA). It may be too much to ask Camby to be a difference maker at 39, but he’s simply backing up the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Chandler. That’s a very reasonable challenge for the veteran.
And for support in that area, Grunwald nabbed Kurt Thomas in the deal with Portland, and he added combo forward Chris Copeland for relatively nothing. Copeland is only 6’8, but his ability to play power forward will help keep Camby and Thomas at the five.
No, the Knicks didn’t re-sign Lin and they didn’t woo Steve Nash, but the pieces they’ve added complement the frontcourt, which is ultimately the team’s strength.
Perhaps the best way to evaluate the Knicks’ offseason is to ask if the team is better than it was at the start of last season. Grunwald can’t take credit for all of the progress, but the days of impetuous, irrational decisions from the Knicks’ front office might be over.
Kirilenko Returning to NBA?
As we mentioned in yesterday’s NBA PM, Andrei Kirilenko might be returning to the NBA this season, and on Tuesday there was another report suggesting as much. Salt Lake Tribune beat writer Brian T. Smith tweeted that Kirilenko “plans to return to #NBA for 2012-2013 season, league source says.”
Obviously the Nets are in the running for Kirilenko’s services, but they can only offer the veteran’s minimum. Meanwhile, keep an eye on the Utah Jazz—Kirilenko’s former team—the Golden State Warriors and the Indiana Pacers, all three of which can offer more money and will be competing for a playoff spot this season.
Kirilenko played for CSKA Moscow last season with…
Alexey Shved Finalizes Deal With Timberwolves
As expected, Alexey Shved has agreed to a three-year, $10 million contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves, according to a report by Ray Richardson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press and another by R-Sport, Russia’s news agency.
Shved was a budding young star with CSKA Moscow, where he averaged 10.6 points and 3.0 assists while hitting 49.3 percent of his three-point attempts in Russian League play. He’s capable of playing both guard positions, but the presence of Ricky Rubio will keep Shved at shooting guard.
Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @jfleminghoops, @TheRocketGuy, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @alexraskinNYC, @SusanBible, @DPageHoopsWorld , @stephenlitel , @stevesraptors, @TommyBeer and @YannisHW.