The New York Knicks have a problem on their hand. They have players that can start and come off the bench adequately. So who does Mike Woodson tote out there on day one?
The Knicks used 23 different starting lineups last season, and Kurt Thomas started 17 games. Yes, that Kurt Thomas. Woodson has a tendency to start players, and then not play them for the rest of the game. Who starts ultimately doesn’t matter, but who finishes them does. That said, it isn’t important that your team get off to a good start, so they can set a good tone for the game. The Knicks could start Carmelo Anthony, Iman Shumpert, Pablo Prigioni, Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler, Metta World Peace, Raymond Felton, J.R. Smith, or Andrea Bargnani. If you do the math, that comes to 9 potential starters competing for 5 spots. During the Knicks’ first preseason game on Wednesday, they started Raymond Felton, Pablo Prigioni, Carmelo Anthony, Andrea Bargnani, and Tyson Chandler. That is a big lineup, and it was effective. Bargnani playing the 4 really stretches the floor, and that goes in line with what the Knicks do on offense. They set a record for most 3 pointers made in a season, and with that lineup, that gives them a lot of chances to space the floor. That would mean their bench unit would be J.R. Smith, Metta World Peace, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Iman Shumpert. That isn’t a bad set of players at all, and they could be one of the best benches in the NBA.
The Knicks were great when they moved the ball last season, and it gave Carmelo room to operate when they hit on all cylinders. They predicated on ball movement, and it helped them get the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference. Their downfall was related to isolation plays, and when they went iso-heavy, it made them flat, and it allowed teams to control the game. Woodson was heavily criticized in Atlanta for having too many isolation plays, and last season, the Knicks offense was extremely iso-heavy (16% of their offense, led all categories) according to Synergy. The Pacers were able to pick them apart in the playoffs, and they will need a new offense that flows better to truly contend.
On Wednesday on against the Celtics, the Knicks showed glimpses of ball movement, and they had 21 assists on 39 made baskets, and shot 43% from the field. Bargnani scored 12 points and looked good. The starting lineup showed good chemistry, and I think they should use the lineup to start the season. Iman Shumpert played extremely well, as he scored 18 points on 7 of 7 shooting. Although he may have been trying to prove that he should start, I think this only proves that he could be the spark they need while J.R. Smith recovers and serves his 5 game suspension. Ultimately, I think the lineup of Felton, Prigioni, Anthony, Bargnani, and Chandler provides good offense, and better defense. Having Pablo Prigioni start would help the ball movement, and could keep their offense in line. J.R. Smith plays better off the bench, and the reserves have the potential to keep leads, and provide spark at the same time. It will be up to Woodson to keep the offense flowing, and only use isolation when things break down, and they can throw the ball to Carmelo. Ultimately, like they say, it isn’t who starts, but it’s who finishes. The Knicks will need to get off to good starts though, and this lineup could be deadly.