When the news came down that New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler would miss some time, many felt that the Knicks’ defense, which wasn’t great to begin with, would completely fall apart.
However that hasn’t been the case at all, due large in part to Kenyon Martin moving into the starting lineup.
The results speak for themselves as the K-Mart led defense has looked more like it did earlier in the season when the Knicks came out of the gates to an 18-5 start.
With Chandler out, the Knicks have held four of their past five opponents under 95 points. Saturday, they held Toronto to 84 points and held the Raptors’ guards in check. Fourteen of Toronto’s 18 turnovers were the result of Knicks steals and the Raps shot just 4-for-23 from behind the arc. The two biggest weaknesses of the Knicks defense are defending the opposing point guard and recognizing opposing shooters on the perimeter.
Now you may be a bit confused on exactly how much Martin has helped this team, but his contributions have been far greater than the 8.2 points and 5.3 rebounds he has averaged through 11 games (six starts).
Defensively K-Mart has made everyone better mostly because he doesn’t need much help. His toughness and intensity have rubbed off on everyone and he could turn out to be exactly the shot in the arm that the Knicks needed as they were a very flat team coming home from their recent five-game road trip.
With Martin in the starting lineup, the Knicks have gone 4-2 and more importantly have won games while allowing Chandler to heal.
The drop-off between the two isn’t as great as one would think though. Chandler is the much better rebounder and overall defender, but K-Mart has filled his shoes rather nicely. Chandler has posted a PER of 19.4 on the season, while Martin isn’t far behind at 18.1, which actually is a bit of a surprise.
When you look at Per 36 minutes numbers, Chandler is averaging 11.7 points and 12.0 rebounds. During the same span, K-Mart is averaging 13.5 points and 8.2 rebounds.
The sample size is rather small for Martin, but if I am Knicks head coach Mike Woodson, I am thrilled with the production.
What Martin has done is give the Knicks a late season boost and the spark he has provided seems to have the Knicks back on track for the moment.
K-Mart could (and should) remain in the starting lineup when Chandler returns. By sliding Martin to the 4 and moving Carmelo Anthony back to the 3, it moves Martin to his natural position and sures up the Knicks defense, especially in the block where Anthony would no longer have to guard bigger players.
Moving Anthony away from the block offensively won’t hurt as much as people may think as the Knicks will have a pair of very efficient big men, who can score in the paint. Chandler leads the NBA, shooting 64.5 percent from the floor, while K-Mart is shooting 62.7 percent.
Martin will play a major role on this team in the postseason, which looked highly unlikely for a guy who barely got off the bench during his pair of 10-day contracts.
He may not be the star in this league that he once was, but Martin has rejuvenated his career in the Big Apple. One thing is for sure and that’s because of his recent play, Martin won’t be waiting until March to sign with a team next year.
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