Who will emerge from a crowded field as the starting center for the New York Knicks in the 2017-18 season?The New York Knicks have had a revolving door at the center position for the past decade. Players like Tyson Chandler, Samuel Dalembert, Andrea Bargnani and Robin Lopez were brought in but were unable to solidify the position. New York has now committed to a youth movement going forward. It is key for them to pair the right center to play alongside their rising star, power forward Kristaps Porzingis.
As part of the recent Carmelo Anthony trade, the Knicks received Enes Kanter. Now they have an abundance of big men. Kanter, along with Willy Hernangomez, Joakim Noah and Kyle O’Quinn are all currently on the roster. The key word there is “currently”. At some point, one of these players will need to be moved.
But until that happens, there will be debates about who should be starting and getting the minutes. The starting center gig will be the biggest battle in training camp and the preseason. Let us look at the options for the New York Knicks.
The first option is also one of the newest acquisitions to the team. Kanter is a 6-foo245-pound center who is entering his seventh season. He spent the last two years coming off the bench for the Oklahoma City Thunder. His career per-36 minutes statistics (19.1 PPG, 11.4 RPG) show that he would be a very effective starter.
But the 25-year-old may not even be on the Knicks’ roster by the end of the season because of his contract. Kanter is guaranteed $17.9 million this year and has a $18.6 million player option for the 2018-19 season. If his time in the Big Apple is used as an audition, what is the best way for the Knicks to get the most for him at the trade deadline? Put him on display as a starter and give him starter’s minutes.
The next option the New York Knicks have seems to be the fan’s favorite at this point, Willy Hernangomez. Being Porzingis’ best friend on the team doesn’t hurt his chances, either. Hernangomez is entering his second season in the NBA and will look to build off his successful rookie campaign, which saw him selected to the All-Rookie team.
There are a lot of similarities between Kanter and Hernangomez. Their frames are identical: Both are 6-foot-11 and weigh between 240-to-245 pounds. Both are exceptional post players on the offensive end of the court. It’s the defensive end where they get into trouble. The difference is that Willy could still develop into a reliable center. While Kanter isn’t old, he’s entering his seventh season—you know what you are getting with him. Hernangomez is also on a team-friendly contract. He is scheduled to make just under $4.7 million over the next three years.
The third option is the most maddening one. Joakim Noah’s career per-36 minutes statistics (11.2 PPG, 11.7 RPG) hold their own against the other two on this list. The problem is that he will never play 36 minutes. That wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t for his contract—he’s on the books for $55.6 million over the next three years. The Knicks could end up stretching Noah this year or next and save money in the long run.
He averaged 22.1 minutes last year in only 46 games. Noah will miss the first 12 games of the season, though, as he is serving the remainder of a 20-game suspension he received at the of last year. Injuries have also plagued the 32-year-old for years, limiting his productivity.
- Noah is not the defensive anchor that he was four years ago when he won the Defensive Player of the Year Award. His body just will not let him be that guy anymore. The best option New York is to use the stretch provision on him.
- Hernangomez is a defensive liability on a team that is not known for their defense. He can be successful off the bench and possibly slide into the starter’s position if his second season is as productive as his first. Plus his contract could net the Knicks something on the trade market.
So where does that leave the Knicks? With only one real option to start in the middle: Enes Kanter.