At the beginning of the 2012-13 NBA season, the New York Knicks had a frontcourt to brag about, combining a perfect offense for defense balance in Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler with reinforcements like veterans Amar’e Stoudemire, Marcus Camby, Rasheed Wallace, and Kurt Thomas. It seemed like an embarrassment of riches at the time, but almost eight months later, the Knicks find themselves with less size than Mini-Me standing in quicksand (should that be a GEICO commercial?). Anyways, New York can use a serious youth infusion to their big man rotation and a certain National Champion could go a long ways towards keeping the rim protected.
One thing we already know about next season’s Knicks is that Melo will be holding down the offense side of the floor. Even when everyone seems to be in a funk, Anthony can almost always come up with enough points to get them over the hump. Over the next few years, it’s important for management to give Melo the defensive help he needs to make up for his deficiencies. Iman Shumpert is a nice start, but 6-10 prospect Gorgui Dieng could improve the interior.
Dieng isn’t quite a 7-footer, but he makes up for his lack of height by using every inch of a wingspan of almost 7-4 to alter every shot that comes near him. His lateral footwork should translate well to the NBA, making him a likely defensive specialist. Like most, he’ll need to add weight in order to bang down low with professionals, but his body has already changed dramatically since his freshman year at Louisville. Offensively, Dieng isn’t the most reliable option, but there are certainly worse projects out there. He showed a propensity to move the ball well, finishing with a positive assist to turnover ration this past year.
I don’t know how warmly Tyson Chandler would feel about grooming his replacement, but both of their styles are rather similar, with zero-to-no post game, but continuous effort on the defensive end. Chandler disappeared against the Pacers in the playoffs, making Roy Hibbert look like Hakeem Olajuwon reincarnated. He clearly wasn’t at 100 percent physically, something that’s of concern, considering his reckless style and mileage despite his young age. As reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Chandler averaged almost 33 minutes per game. At this point of his career, he simply can’t last the whole season logging that much time playing in the manner in which he does. Rather than spend precious dollars on more veterans like Samuel Dalembert or Chris Kaman, the Knicks would be better served to select Dieng come draft night. Shumpert and Dieng could be the defensive presence needed around Melo in order to spring the Knicks to more playoff success down the road.