NBA fans around the world: rejoice. The 2016-17 NBA season is quickly approaching. Over a five week span, Last Word On Pro Basketball will provide a breakdown of the New York Knicks roster, looking at a different position each week. In this final edition, the centers get put under the microscope.
New York Knicks Roster Breakdown: Centers
New York has had its fair share of centers come and go since the great Patrick Ewing was traded in the year 2000. Marcus Camby, Tyson Chandler, and Robin Lopez were all brought in to anchor the middle since Ewing’s departure. Lopez was the most recent player to try his hand at the position. He signed a four-year contract during 2015 free agency. Lopez was arguably the most consistent and dependable player on the Knicks roster last season.
Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis, and Lopez made up one of the best front-courts in the Eastern Conference last season. The issue for New York though was the back-court. As the saying goes, “you have to spend money to make money.” Well, in the NBA, you have to part with assets in order to acquire assets. Lopez was traded to the Chicago Bulls this off-season as part of the Derrick Rose deal. The Knicks looked to free agency and the draft to reload at the center position.
Starter: Joakim Noah
Joakim Noah was brought it to be the starting center on the New York Knicks roster. He signed a four-year, $72 million contract in the off-season. The 6’11”, 232-pound veteran is entering his tenth season in the league. He had spent his entire professional career with the Bulls before signing with New York. Noah has averaged 9.3 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game during his career.
Injuries and Father Time have been catching up with the two-time All-Star over the last few seasons. In 2015-16, he averaged just 4.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 3.8 assists in 21.9 minutes per game. His scoring average was a career low. Noah only played in 29 games last year. The last time that he played in 80 games was in the 2013-14 season, when he won the Defensive Player of the Year award. In order for New York to make a deep playoff run, it will need a healthy and rejuvenated Noah. The Knicks have a few question marks with him.
Primary Back-Up: Guillermo Hernangomez
The first name on the list behind Noah is 22-year-old Guillermo Hernangomez. The 6’10”, 249-pound big man was selected by the Philadelphia 76ers with the 35th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. His rights were then traded to New York on draft night. This off-season, he signed a four-year, $5.85 million contract with the Knicks.
Hernangomez has spent the last four seasons playing overseas in the Liga ACB League. In two of those four seasons, he won the league championship playing with Real Madrid. He played in a total of 133 games. In those contests, he averaged 7.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 0.4 blocks in 14.7 minutes per game. This will be his first year in the NBA. If Hernangomez needs an adjustment period, then there is another rookie looking to take advantage of available playing time.
Third String: Marshall Plumlee
Marshall Plumlee was an undrafted rookie free agent who signed a partially guaranteed three-year contract with New York. This season is fully guaranteed for $543,471. Only $100,000 is guaranteed for next year, while the 2018-19 season is non-guaranteed. Plumlee is the third son in his family playing in the league. His brothers, Mason Plumlee and Miles Plumlee, play for the Portland Trail Blazers and Milwaukee Bucks, respectively.
The 2010-11 McDonald’s All-American followed in his two brothers’ footsteps and attended Duke University. He played four seasons under coach Mike Krzyzewski. Plumlee and the Blue Devils won the NCAA National Championship in 2015. The 24-year-old can find some valuable playing time in the NBA Development League if he fails to earn a spot on the 15-man roster.
The New York Knicks roster has just the right balance of experience and youth. The players just need to stay healthy and build their chemistry in order to succeed. If they are unable to make a deep playoff run, then it might just be time for a complete re-build centered around their youth.
October 23, 2015: Joakim Noah #13 of the Chicago Bulls waiting to get in the first half against the Dallas Mavericks at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska. Bulls 103 Mavericks 102. (Photo by John S. Peterson/Icon Sportswire) (Photo by John Peterson/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)