After the dust settled from a wild couple weeks of trading, signing, and declining, the Knicks entered this week with a nearly complete roster. Counting Pablo Prigioni and Chris Copeland (the latter of whom is non-guaranteed for the moment), the Knicks opened the week with thirteen guys under contract and two minimum deals left to give out. It was widely agreed upon that, with Landry Fields in Toronto and Iman Shumpert sidelined until at least 2013, New York ought to use one of those remaining contracts to add a free-agent wing — a guy who could trade minutes with J.R. Smith and shoot, defend, or both. The Knicks had to sit and wait while some potential targets — guys like O.J. Mayo, Shannon Brown, and Randy Foye — signed elsewhere for more money, but they were patient and eventually got their guy.
Meet Ronnie Brewer. He's a 6'7", 27-year-old guard/forward who came off Chicago's vaunted bench last season and will join the Knicks for the aforementioned one-year, $1.1 million veteran's minimum contract. Brewer's a big guard and is reputed for using his size to play superb wing defense both on and off the ball. On offense, he cuts well and thrives in transition, but has an uncanny, funky-looking jump shot that's the result of a childhood waterslide injury. More important, that jump shot can't be relied upon to go in the basket. Brewer's always been a poor and reluctant three-point shooter, and even his work from inside the arc has been pretty inefficient since he's been a Bull.
All that said, most everybody agrees that this is at least a decent signing. For one, Brewer perfectly complements J.R. Smith. Smith likes to create and shoot from outside, while Brewer is more of a finisher and defensive specialist who's big enough to shift up to small forward. Having two guys with such different skill sets allows for many new lineup iterations catered to different opponents and needs. Once Shumpert returns, the options will be bountiful, and the Knicks could trot out some pretty scary defensive units.
Brewer's lack of shooting is a concern, particularly alongside guys like Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, who need a spread floor to operate most efficiently. Here are two optimistic ways to think about that:
1. Brewer's shooting numbers (not from downtown, but from 16–23 feet) were up above 40 percent when he had Deron Williams, not Derrick Rose, as his point guard. Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, and Pablo Prigioni are not Deron Williams, but they are more natural setup men than Derrick Rose is (Rose is vastly superior to all of the above in nearly every other regard, just so we're clear).
2. Compare Brewer to last year's Landry Fields. Brewer is just as bad of a shooter, equivalent or better in other offensive realms, and much better at defense. He signed for one year and just over $1 million, while Fields is in Toronto for three years and $19 million. How about THAT?
So, the Knicks are nearing completion, and they're taking on a certain feel. This team will likely have as much trouble as last year's did with shooting and spacing the floor for the primary scorers. On the other hand, it's got a stouter, deeper bench with, from the look of things, an even better defense. The Knicks might be pretty ugly to watch at times, but they should be pretty good. Well, hypothetically. These things never actually work out the way we expect.