That said, there is a reason the Knicks are open to the idea of dealing Brewer — a former No. 7 overall pick who averaged 13 points per game last season — again before the trade deadline. Although the Knicks need to shore up their defense, but a single effort defender on the perimeter isn’t going to solve many problems. Playing Brewer regularly certainly won’t hurt New York on defense, but he has a very limited defensive impact and shouldn’t be expected to do more than stay in front of his man and grab a few steals. He is far from the Bruce Bowen defensive-stopper ideal; New York may not have a more consistently successful perimeter defender on staff, but there’s one glaring concern: Brewer’s competent defense comes with a significant offensive trade-off.
Brewer may have played regular minutes for Minnesota, but he’s still a very poor offensive player who cannot be relegated to the corner because of his lack of 3-point range. That’s damaging enough on its own, but considering how important the corner 3 is to the Knicks’ offense, Brewer seems to be a particularly poor fit for New York’s rotation. Take a look at how Brewer’s shooting percentages stack up with the rest of the candidates for wing minutes, as well as the league average among all players:
*Note: Azubuike’s shooting numbers are from last season, when he was a member of the Golden State Warriors. All other players’ stats are based on their performance thus far this season.
From this comparison, we can see that not only is Brewer shooting below average from every single zone on the floor, but he is notably less accurate than New York’s alternatives.
It gets worse: Brewer is a slashing wing with delusions of jump-shooting grandeur. In general, he has no business taking any shots outside the paint, yet that has never stopped Brewer from firing away before, and there’s reason to suspect that the freedom of the Knicks’ offense would only make matters worse. Take a look at Brewer’s shot distribution this season; despite shooting exceptionally poor percentages from greater distances, Brewer has nevertheless attempted almost half of his shots outside of 16 feet:
Stats courtesy of Hoopdata.com.
Azubuike, Walker and Williams gravitate toward the zones in which they’re most efficient, but Brewer has no effective range to anchor his offensive performance. He still gets to the rim a fair amount, but poor shooting percentages from every other area on the floor (especially from 3-point range) completely negate the impact of those attempts.
“Three and D” specialists in the Bowen mold are useful in part because they don’t step outside themselves on offense. They spot up in the corner or run the baseline, but only impact the game offensively when gifted the opportunity. Passes out of double-teams, drive-and-kick feeds – these are the mechanisms that allow perimeter defensive specialists to score. Otherwise, such players are nonfactors on offense.
That’s not the case with Brewer, who has posted a significantly higher usage rate than Shane Battier, James Jones, or many of his other perimeter defending contemporaries. Brewer fancies himself a more active participant in the offense, and unfortunately for the Wolves and now the Knicks, that mindset results in a lot of errant jumpers. He doesn’t break even; Brewer is using too many possessions on low-percentage shots, and not making the kind of widespread defensive impact that could balance out his offensive deficit.
Whether Azubuike, Walker or Williams is the best choice for more minutes is still uncertain, and could change on a game-to-game basis depending on specific matchups. Regardless, Brewer is most valuable to the Knicks as trade bait. He played regular minutes for the Timberwolves out of necessity, but the Knicks have better options, even if their rotation seems thin.