The Knicks currently have three centers that the team and fans seem pretty happy with. Mitchell Robinson has had some injury issues in the past and his energy and motivation can come and go at times but he is coming off a playoff run that saw him completely dismantle the Cleveland Cavaliers with his rim protection and offensive rebounding. Backing him up is Isaiah Hartenstein, who looked like one of the best backup centers in the league in the second half of the season. And then you have Jericho Sims, who is a very solid third-string center capable of filling in whenever he is called upon. So on paper, the center position doesn’t seem like a position of concern for New York.
But anyone who watched the Knicks struggle against the Miami Heat in the second round of the playoffs knows that the team is lacking the kind of spacing and offensive versatility from their center position that a lot of the really good teams possess. And the front office knows it too, evident by their reported interest in free agent big man, Naz Reid.
Reid may not be the kind of big name player that some fans would like to see the Knicks target, but he would be an amazing addition to a Knicks team that ranked 14th in points per game, 15th in made threes per game and last in three-point percentage in the playoffs. In his four-year career, Reid has averaged 20.6 points per 36 minutes, and is a 34.4% three-point shooter, averaging 2.2 three-point makes per 36 minutes. Adding him to the Knicks’ current lineup would free up a tremendous amount of space in the paint for Jalen Brunson, RJ Barrett, and Julius Randle. Now we can’t say for sure just how creatively and effectively Tom Thibodeau can utilize Reid and his skillset. But a world where Reid can pop out (like in the clip below), off of a two-man game with Brunson, or even Randle would be amazing. Defenses would have to consistently make the difficult decision of leaving Reid wide open or letting Brunson or Randle get going downhill.
But the Knicks will have a lot to think about before going after the New Jersey native. Reid may be a clear offensive upgrade over any center the team currently rosters, but by parting ways with Robinson (something that they’d have to do make space for Reid), they’d be sacrificing some defense and rebounding. While Reid isn’t a bad defender (defensive rating of 110.5), he does not offer the kind of athleticism, size, and rim protection that Robinson does (defensive rating of 109.5). And this could lead to some potential issues as Thibodeau likes to funnel everything into the paint where Robinson has been so reliable over the last few seasons. Reid, being the undersized center he is, could force Thibodeau to alter the defensive scheme that he’s relied on so consistently. Dealing Robinson would also mean losing out on some second chance opportunities as he averaged 3.9 more offensive rebounds per 36 minutes than Reid did last season.
Given how difficult it can be to find a center in free agency who can space the floor and be a consistent scoring threat, the Knicks will have plenty of competition for the big man. Not to mention, Reid recently let it be known that he would like to re-sign with Minnesota. And because of that (and everything else written above), a lot of things would need to happen for Reid to end up in a Knicks jersey next season. But it’s evident that the Knicks front office is very aware of the roster’s clear shortcomings and are open to shaking things up, and that’s a good sign.