After years of starting undersized forwards like David Lee at the center position, the Knicks finally have two taller, more rugged big men in Ronny Turiaf (6’10 and 245 pounds) and the Russian NBA rookie, Timofey Mozgov (7’1 and 250 pounds).
Although Turiaf appeared to be penciled in as the team’s starting center, Mozgov has impressed in practice, displaying a quick ability to pick up Mike D’Antoni’s style of play.
Mozgov started Wednesday night in the Knicks preseason match-up against the Celtics, but did not impress. He finished with 5 points, shooting 2 for 3 from the field, and had 2 steals, but furthermore, only finished with 3 rebounds and committed 4 fouls in just 15 minutes of play.
Turiaf, however, did not do much to help his case either; while he finished with 4 assists, he only pulled down 3 rebounds in 20 minutes. He also did not score.
While Turiaf is a high-octane energy type of player, Mozgov is the better offensive player with a skillful jump shot.
However, it is not his jumper that will give Mozgov a leg up on Turiaf in remaining a starter. D’Antoni has preached that Mozgov “needs to be a guy who can bring in eight to 10 rebounds.”
It is well known that rebounding is not Mozgov’s strong suit (yet), as he has in the past focused more on boxing out opponents, rather than going to grab the rebound.
In fact, the Knicks do not appear to have anyone (including Amare Stoudemire) on the roster that has proven they can pull down up to 10 rebounds per game.
If it’s rebounding that the Knicks want, though, Turiaf, (not Mozgov) is their man at center.
The question of who should start at center should not begin with whom is the better player, but yet, who fits well with each lineup?
Some of the Knicks’ obvious starters, such as Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, and Stoudemire, have not shown so far to have a rebounding presence. While granted, the preseason has only been three games long, rebounding (along with his defensive presence and energy) is what Turiaf is known for.
Starting Turiaf at center could create a strong balance for the Knicks’ starting lineup on each end of the floor. While he isn’t much of a scorer, his high intensity at the start of each game would be a nice added bonus to the already present four offensive options in Stoudemire, Chandler, Gallinari, and Raymond Felton.
Furthermore, Mozgov would then be able to provide an offensive boost off the bench, without having (as much) pressure on him to rebound the ball.
With enough firepower to start off games already present, Mozgov could pair with Anthony Randolph to provide fits for second unit defenses around the league.
Turiaf is also a tough veteran who knows the big-man competition of the NBA. Throwing Mozgov into the fire to fend off the NBA’s tougher big men may not be the best idea just yet, simply for the fact that Mozgov is still adjusting to the NBA game.
Both players have their strengths, and with rumors of an 11-man rotation, Turiaf and Mozgov are certain to get a lot of burn this season. However, starting Turiaf now gives the Knicks the opportunity to keep the rebounding and defensive intensity high, while keeping the pressures on Mozgov low.