Ronny Turiaf might be the right choice to play at center next to Amar'e Stoudemire, mainly because Turiaf, at a burly 6-10, is the type of player who thrives in doing the dirty work. He'll bang, he'll use fouls and he'll make an effort on the glass, which will be the most important skill the Knicks will need out of whomever they play at the five.
Our first glimpses of Timofey Mozgov are still via video and not against actual NBA big men, but one statistic that stands out is that in three games in the World Championships against mostly smaller front lines, The Moz, at a very long 7-1, is pulling down just three boards per game in 17.6 minutes per game.
Now no one here is slapping a "bust" label on the 23-year-old, whom the Knicks signed for $9.7M (over three years, not all guaranteed) as a PWP (project with potential). The Russian center has looked good in other areas -- showing to have very good hands and coordination, swift feet, a willingness to bang and attack and, most notably, a predilection for dunking the basketball at every opportunity. He is averaging 11 points per game and shooting 56.5 percent from the field, mainly because he takes so many high-percentage shots (read: dunks).
But at 7-1 with arms that almost reach the rim without jumping, Mozgov should be a better rebounder. He had five (along with 19 points) in a 72-66 win over Ivory Coast, who had just one player over 6-8: that would be former Valparaiso center Mohamed Kone (6-11), who had 16 points and just three rebounds in 27 minutes. One observation noted by several of you while we watched together via Twitter is that Mozgov does practice a very critical fundamental of rebounding, which is that he consistently finds his man and boxes out. This is a lost art in the NBA, mainly because players tend to use their athleticism and strength to go after the ball rather than stop their man from getting to it.
So perhaps Kone's three rebounds should be a nod toward Mozgov's efforts on the box-out, especially when you see that Kone was averaging 5.5 boards in the previous two games in less minutes.
But let's relate this to what the Knicks need: rebounds. In 2010-11 A.D. (After David), rebounding is a critical area, especially for a team that will want to get out in transition and go the other way quickly. Rebounding is the catalyst for the break-out (hockey term) and getting the ball up the floor quickly for easy scores in the SSOL method. Defense is going to be enough of a challenge for Mike D'Antoni's team, so giving up second-chance points and offensive rebounds only makes it more difficult.
Amar'e Stoudemire has never averaged double-figures in rebounding in his career (though he's come close and had a career-high Per-36 average of 11.5 in 2005-06), but he will need to focus more in that area, for sure, as a Knick. Turiaf isn't a noted rebounder, but has the capability of supporting Stoudemire on the glass and for keeping others off the boards with his strength in boxing out.
Eddy Curry is often maligned for his -- OK, you could put so many things here right now, but let's stick to the subject at hand -- rebounding. In his best season as a Knick (2006-07), the 7-foot Curry averaged just 7 per game. And his Per-36 wasn't much better (7.3). But hey, this needs to be a rebound season for Curry so . . . *weak smile*
Of course you don't need to have a double-figures rebounder to be a good rebounding team. Two of the NBA's top rebounding teams from last season (Lakers and Thunder) did not have a player who averaged double-figures in rebounding. In fact, there wasn't even one player on any of those teams in the top 10 in rebounding in the NBA.
So the Knicks will need contributions from others, such as Anthony Randolph, who, at 6-11, has a career Per-36 of 11.1 rebounds. Danilo Gallinari, at 6-10, needs to improve upon his Per-36 of 5.2 and likely will with more consistent minutes. Wilson Chandler's Per-36 is 5.8.
Perhaps the absence of David Lee will change some of the mentality when it comes to rebounding. Often when you have a guy who is your Boardin Gordon, players will defer to him. Lee was such a good outlet passer there were many times when you prefered to let Lee get the ball off the rim. Without him there, you have to expect more of a community approach to the glass.
But rebounding has to be one of the primary responsibilities of whomever the Knicks use at center next to Stoudemire, who often will be on the move in the pick-and-roll on offense and should be looking to get out on the break and take advantage of slower big men in transition.
But right now, in analyzing the Knicks centers (Turiaf, Curry or Mozgov), rebounding isn't a dominant trait.
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* - Andy Rautins, who is playing for Team Canada, has been dealing with a balky knee that bothered him even before the World Championships. He could miss a game later today and, with training camp set to begin in three weeks, it might be wise for him to pull out of the Worlds so he is ready to play for the Knicks when camp opens Set. 25.