Knicks sign Ronnie Brewer, a defense-first insurance plan for J.R. Smith

Ronnie Brewer. (NBA.com)
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The New York Knicks signed veteran shooting guard Ronnie Brewer on Tuesday, and how you look at the move depends on whether you focus on what Brewer can do, which is play defense, or what he can't do, which is shoot.

Brewer signed for the veteran minimum, just over $1 million, and figures to get much of the playing time Iman Shumpert would have. Shumpert is recovering from a knee injury he suffered in this past season's playoffs, and is aiming for a January return.

Brewer's acquisition does several things.

One is that addresses the Knicks' acute need for additional options at shooting guard. The inconsistent J.R. Smith is a useful player, but asking him to play starter's minutes without an escape valve would have been reckless.

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The only other option they had to play the position, prior to signing Brewer, was James White, who hasn't played in the N.B.A. since 2009, having spent the past three seasons overseas.

Brewer is a strong perimeter defender, instantly making any lineup he's a part of better on the defensive end. This is an important skill for a Knicks team that will start Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire at the forward positions and Raymond Felton at the point. And the second unit will have defensive problems as well, with Jason Kidd at the point and Steve Novak at forward.

Brewer, at 6'7", 220 pounds, is a strong defensive matchup for both big guards and small forwards. The Knicks can even do things like deploy both Brewer and Shumpert at times against, say, LeBron James and Dwayne Wade, leaving Carmelo Anthony free to defend lesser offensive threats and keep from wearing down in games against Miami.

What Brewer won't bring to the lineups he joins is any kind of consistent perimeter shooting. That's too bad; the Knicks are reduced to hoping that Smith regains his form from deep. Otherwise, they are in precisely the position they were last year, when only Steve Novak managed to be even league average at shooting three-pointers. Brewer, a career 24.4 percent shooter from deep, is well below even that standard. Put it this way: his career accuracy from deep is worse than Landry Fields' three-point shooting last year, if you can imagine that.

But with only the salary room to add a player willing to take the veteran's minimum, the Knicks added a useful piece who gives them an added skill they need. At that price, they weren't getting both a strong perimeter defender and skilled three-point shooter; those guys make much more.

The Brewer signing all but concludes what would have been a decent offseason for the Knicks, were it not for the small matter of losing Jeremy Lin.