While some questions have been answered for the New York Knicks, who the perfect front-court complement for Kristaps Porzingis is remains a mystery.
Since being drafted fourth overall by the New York Knicks in 2015, Kristaps Porzingis has been paired primarily with three centers: Robin Lopez, Joakim Noah and Enes Kanter. While all three have their bright spots, none were perfect fits.
Lopez and Noah are severely limited offensively, while Kanter is a phantom on the defensive end of the floor.
In today’s NBA, positionless basketball is becoming the norm. More and more teams are trying to acquire more players who can play multiple positions. The ideal player next to Kristaps Porzingis is one who can switch between the four and the five, depending on matchups.
The perfect complement is someone who can control the paint while Porzingis is spreading the floor. They also have to be athletic enough to defend either position. Here is a look at some of the most realistic options.
The only player on this list currently not in the NBA is Wendell Carter Jr. The 6-foot-10, 259-pound big man just wrapped up his freshman season at Duke and has declared for June’s NBA Draft.
During his lone season in Durham, he averaged 13.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.1 blocks in 26.8 minutes per game. He shot 56.1 percent from the floor and 73.8 percent from the foul line. His player efficiency rating (28.2) ranked second in the entire Atlantic Coast Conference.
Pairing Carter Jr. with Kristaps Porzingis would create a modern day “Twin Towers”. I say modern day because along with being able to anchor the middle, both players can also knock down the three-point shot. Carter Jr. attempted 1.2 three-point shots per game. He converted on 41.3 percent of those shots. Porzingis attempted 4.8 per game last season knocking down 39.3 percent.
The Unrestricted Free Agent
The oldest player on this list is Derrick Favors. He will be entering his ninth season in the league after being selected with the third overall pick by the then-New Jersey Nets in the 2010 NBA Draft. That is at least twice as much NBA experience as anyone else on this list.
That type of hands-on experience can be beneficial to a team in the middle of a rebuild. It will be even more valuable if Enes Kanter opts-out of his player option and Courtney Lee winds up being traded.
Favors is as durable as they come, starting 77 games this past season for the Utah Jazz. The 6-foot-10, 265-pounder averaged 12.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.1 blocks and 0.7 steals in 28.0 minutes per game. His 56.3 field goal percentage was a career high.
In the playoffs, he raised that number to 61.8 percent. The former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket also increased his three-point shooting from 22.2 percent during the regular season to 40.0 percent in the playoffs.
The Restricted Free Agent
Julius Randle will be a restricted free agent and the most expensive on this list to acquire. His current team, the Los Angeles Lakers, has the ability to match any offer that Randle signs from another team.
Will they? Based on his statistics this season it should be a no-brainer, but the answer is not that cut and dry.
Los Angeles has aspirations of acquiring two max contract players this offseason. If those plans come to fruition, the former Kentucky Wildcat will be playing the 2018-19 season and beyond in another team’s jersey.
There should be no shortage of teams trying to obtain his services. The 6-foot-9, 250-pound big man averaged 16.1 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 0.5 blocks in 26.7 minutes per game. He shot 55.8 percent from the floor and 22.2 percent from behind the three-point line. His points per game and field goal percentage were career highs.
The Dark Horse
Jerami Grant is the dark horse candidate on this list of potential targets. He’s not the flashiest choice but he also will not be the most expensive choice either. For a team currently with little-to-no cap space, that could be a deciding factor.
Grant is also the only player on this list with family ties to the Knicks organization. His brother Jerian played his rookie season in New York before being traded to the Chicago Bulls.
The former Syracuse Orange forward averaged 8.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, 0.7 assists and 1.0 blocks in 20.3 minutes per game. His three-point percentage (29.1) is the highest of the three players on this list who played in the NBA this season. His 6-foot-8, 215-pound frame could be an issue playing alongside Kristaps Porzingis. Both players are a stretch four/five and that does not leave anyone to man the paint.
Anyone who has had any discussions with me regarding the future of the Knicks knows that I believe that Julius Randle is the perfect complement to Kristaps Porzingis. To be honest, though, any one of these four options would be a good complement. These men are large enough to bang around in the paint and athletic enough to be effective in today’s NBA.