This week we move to the Central Division and evaluate how the New York Knicks stack up against a division that underwent changes that seem to have parallel the changing times of the NBA in the last decade.
At the start of the decade we saw the Indiana Pacers spearheaded by recent Hall of Fame inductee Reggie Miller, dominate the division. Then slowly the Detroit Pistons carved themselves a mini dynasty for a couple of years. But when Lebron James finally assimilated into the league, the Cavaliers were forces to be reckon with until James took his talents to the Southeast Division. Now more recently, a Chicago native in Derrick Rose, has led the Bulls back to prominence but with his current rehab process are now in dire need of a speedy recovery.
And just like that we have come to a complete circle and the Pacers look to be the top dogs now in this division with their exciting playoff run last season. Today I will analyze how the Knicks would fair against a rebuilding and playoff desperate Detroit Pistons in a seven game series.
Point Guard: Raymond Felton/Jason Kidd/Pablo Prigioni vs. Brandon Knight/Will Bynum
Although Brandon Knight had a shaky rookie season learning to play point guard at the NBA level, the future of this former Kentucky Wildcat is very bright. Knight is a gym rat that will log many hours to improve his game. On the basketball court Brandon Knight can certainly shoot the ball but also beat his opponents off the dribble. He still needs learn to make plays for his teammates but that will come with time. Will Bynum is flat out scorer. Despite his small stature he is fearless when driving through the lane and is an underrated athlete.
These two will give the Knicks older point guards problems but nothing they haven’t encounter before. The Knicks will be fine here as long as they keep both these players honest on both ends of the floor and not get suckered into a track meet with these guys.
Shooting Guard: Ronnie Brewer/Jr. Smith/ Iman Shumpert vs. Rodney Stuckey/Kim English
At only 26 years old, Stuckey still has time to turn around what should have been an already successful NBA tenure. Stuckey has great scoring instincts and a rare ability to simply duck his head down and barrell his way into the paint. Yet he has struggled defining his role on this rebuilding team whether if he’s a point or shooting guard. Detroit’s rookie Kim English will actually see some valuable minutes this season with the lack of depth the Pistons have right now in the guard rotation. English will look stretch the floor for this team with his long range sniping ability.
If Ronnie Brewer can follow through with his claim that he will be ready for the season opener, the Knicks should have enough length and defensive prowess to guard these players. Brewer is long enough to bother the stronger Stuckey and Jr. Smith can no doubt stay with Kim English on the perimeter.
Small Forward: Carmelo Anthony/ Steve Novak/ James White/ Chris Copeland vs. Tayshaun Prince/Corey Maggette/ Austin Daye/ Kyle Singler
The Pistons are very versatile at this position. They have very good scoring wings in both Maggette and Daye. They have an underrated player in Tayshaun Prince who even at his age can still provide above average defense and can give you a little bit of everything down on the other end. Rookie Kyle Singler has a high basketball IQ and can shoot the ball very well.
The problem here(at least for the Pistons) is who can really guard Carmelo Anthony here? Prince back in the day would be the “guy.” But the over the years he has lost a step and the same passion isn’t there as it was. Melo will have his way with Prince, the very skinny Daye, and non-existent defense from Maggette.
Power Forward: Amar’e Stoudemire/ Kurt Thomas vs. Jonas Jerebko/Charlie Villanueva/Jason Maxiell/Khris Middleton
It’s no secret the Knicks are rather thin at this position. Even though I love what Kurt Thomas brings for this team he will be playing limited minutes for the Knicks because of his age. Amar’e Stoudemire should be a handful for the Detroit here but the Pistons are very athletic and potent at this position as well.
Jonas Jerekbo is pretty good athlete that plays with a ton of energy. Charlie Villanueva despite his lackluster tenure on this Detroit team can be a very effective and versatile scorer. But the key for Detroit here is Jason Maxiell. Indeed he is undersized for the position but he still can be a pest on for his opponents on defense because of his strength and his never say die attitude.
Add in the fact that Greg Monroe will see minutes here, I believe the Knicks are at a slight disadvantage here with their limited rotation.
Center: Tyson Chandler/Marcus Camby vs. Greg Monro/Andre Drummond/Slava Kravtsov
Greg Monroe was my pick for most improved player last year and that’s because he can do just about everything you want from a big man today: shoot, post up, pass, rebound, defend, and compete.
I’m glad the Pistons took a gamble on the Andre Drummond project. His offensive game is still pretty raw but in a couple of years this kid if groomed properly, will be an absolute beast.
The Knicks have the advantage here because of Chandlers’ mobility to stay with Monroe in the post or on the perimeter. And because Drummond’s post play is still unpolished Camby should be an effective defender against the rookie.
Coaching: Mike Woodson vs. Lawrence Frank
Mike Woodson will have to slow this game down and play half court for Stoudemire and Anthony to be utilized effectively. Frank will look to speed the tempo up more. This starts and ends with point guard play. I can’t see Brandon Knight consistently getting this done giving his lack of experience.
Prediction Knicks dominate this series in either four or five games. This is mainly because Pistons still have too many questions on their roster. They need to decide who’s the point guard on this team with both Knight and Stuckey both combo guards. They also need Drummond to get himself ready mentally because from what it seems like he will be thrown into the fire right from the start which will be interesting to monitor. The Knicks have a more talented and complete team than the Pistons who are trying breakout of their rebuilding stage and back in the playoff hunt.