When the Knicks signed the 27-year-old, 6’7 Ronnie Brewer to a 1 year 1.4 million contract, they all thought they were getting a steal. His agent, Henry Thomas characterized him as a
“tremendous wing defender and offensively he simply knows how to play – moving without the ball, slashing to the basket. His outside shooting has improved and will continue to, and he is an excellent passer and underrated ball handler.”
And this is what the Knicks needed — a guy that would be able to replace Landry Fields’ high-flying athleticism and movement without the ball, be able hit the open shot, and be able to guard tough perimeter opponents.
He started off the season in the starting lineup, hitting the open shot, slashing to the basketball and making great decisions, averaging 7.0 points, 46% FG and the 41 3P% in the month of November. But once his open threes were not falling (15% in January), and he was not playing the scrappy basketball that was expected of him, Brewer’s minutes slowly dwindled – 22 min in November, to 17 min in December, to 8 min in January, to 3 min in February. He basically went from a starter to a benchwarmer.
Last year after Rip Hamilton was hurt, Brewer was playing his best basketball on the Bulls averaging around 30 minutes. But then after losing his confidence, he struggled to get even 15 -20 minutes a game and to be part of the rotation. This type of inconsistency is what prevents Brewer from becoming a solid role player – and what has sent him deep into the Knick bench.
So what should the Knicks do?
I personally think the Knicks should give him another chance – he hasn’t been able to prove that he can get out of this slump because he hasn’t played more than 15 minutes since January 7th. His drop in minutes is also largely attributed Iman Shumpert coming back from injury and they play similar roles defensively. But I still think Brewer is needed when Shumpert at 6’5 220 is too small to guard the tougher SF/PF like Lebron James and Kevin Durant. I much rather have Brewer defend these super stars than Carmelo, who seems to get too caught up in the challenge of defending these guys.
The only problem with Brewer being reinserted into the rotation is there is no room for him. That would be an 11-man rotation, which is too much for everyone to receive consistent minutes. We can’t cut down on Shumpert and Jason Kidd’s 20 minutes a game. We can’t cut down on J.R. Smith’s 30-35 min because his scoring off the bench is vital. And Steve Novak receiving 15 minutes is exactly right for him to get off 5 to 6 threes a game.
The solution is Brewer should come in the game for short spurts. When the Knicks are lacking defensively, Brewer can come into the game for a few possessions. When they need a defensive stop at the end of the game, Brewer can go in for D and out for O. Let’s take the end of last night’s game against the Timberwolves – it was a close game, so they had their usual 3 guards in the lineup (Felton, Smith and Kidd). Although there was plenty of offensive ability, defensively there were matchup issues. Kidd, the 39-year-old guard with a bad back, was forced to guard the younger, stronger, 6’8 240 pound forward, Derrick Williams.
Every team needs a defensive stopper and we are not even sure if Shumpert will return to last year’s defensive ability. The Knicks can’t have Brewer who has proven in the past that he can contribute to the Knicks team, become a lost cause and totally lose his confidence. They may need him down the road even if it’s for 5-10 minutes a game.