5 Possible Starting Lineups for the New York Knicks in 2012-13
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The New York Knicks often found their starting five in flux during the 2011-12 season.
Between the ineffectiveness of Toney Douglas, the constantly ailing Baron Davis and the emergence of Jeremy Lin, not to mention injuries to Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, Iman Shumpert, Davis and Lin, the starting lineup saw a host of different faces.
After a flurry of offseason transactions made by GM Glen Grunwald, the Knicks are now a deeper, stronger team heading into 2012-13.
But the starting five will still see numerous changes over the 82-game season.
The Knicks brought in Ronnie Brewer, Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and Marcus Camby. These players could easily start for most NBA teams, but they will be fighting for minutes in New York. Grunwald also re-signed two electric bench players in J.R. Smith and Steve Novak.
Over the course of the season, coach Mike Woodson will find himself with tough decisions to make about which of his talented players to start and how to split up the minutes. But that, as Marlo Stanfield would say, is one of them good problems.
Here are five predictions for the starting lineup throughout the season.
Did Baron Davis shave his beard? Oh, wait, it's Ray Felton again.
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PG Raymond Felton, SG J.R. Smith, SF Carmelo Anthony, PF Amar'e Stoudemire, C Tyson Chandler
As I wrote last week, I expect Felton to be the Knicks' starting point guard, but the timeshare will be more of a one and one-A combo than a one-two. Felton is younger and will see more minutes, but Kidd will play plenty.
Despite my claim that Ronnie Brewer should start at the 2, he won't be entirely up to speed when the season opens on November 1. After undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in the first week of September, he is expected to be out for roughly six weeks. That puts his return at just a week or two before the first game—in Brooklyn against the Nets.
While Brewer should be ready to play, he will miss much of training camp and the preseason, so expect J.R. Smith to begin the year as the starting shooting guard. Also, expect Mike Woodson to have a long talk with Smith about playing smart, knowing his role, avoiding silly fouls and improving his shot selection.
'Yo, same team!'
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
PG Raymond Felton, SG Ronnie Brewer, SF Carmelo Anthony, PF Amar'e Stoudemire, C Tyson Chandler
Last season, the first game was on Christmas Day due to the lockout. The Knicks opened with a thrilling 106-104 victory over the Celtics and won four of their first six games. That was before they lost 11 of 17 games in January.
This year, there will already be 27 games in the books when the Knicks take on the Lakers at the Staples Center on December 25. By that time, Brewer should be fully healthy, have a firm grasp of the offense and be ready to offer his efficacious defense.
As observed by Tony Williams of NJ.com, Brewer's signing answers the question of who starts at shooting guard until Iman Shumpert returns from injury. Brewer's numbers on offense are similar to what Landry Fields posted last season (6.9 points to 8.8 points), and his adept defense fits Woodson's scheme perfectly.
J.R. Smith works well as an offensive spark off the bench. He also has not been a consistent starter since 2004-05, his rookie season.
Brewer is a better complement to the Knicks' marquee scorer, Carmelo Anthony. At times last season, Fields just seemed to be in the way of his teammates, lost on offense. In the playoffs, Smith threw up 76 shots, making just 24 of them.
Brewer helped guide the Bulls to the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. He will look to make a similar contribution in New York. He's a shooting guard who is happy to leave the shooting to the small forward and take only what the defense gives him.
This was the nail in the coffin for the Knicks in 2011-12.
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PG Raymond Felton, SG Iman Shumpert, SF Carmelo Anthony, PF Amar'e Stoudemire, C Tyson Chandler
When outgoing Knicks president Donnie Walsh selected Iman Shumpert out of Georgia Tech with the 17th pick in the 2011 draft, the crowd at the Prudential Center in Newark booed Walsh lustily. It may have just been pent up frustration, or because fans wanted forward Chris Singleton out of Florida State instead.
Shumpert turned out to be a savvy pick, delighting Knicks fans over the course of the season with high-flying dunks and blanketing defense. As stated on his Twitter, his current occupation is "parking people on 21 Shump St."
The Knicks desperately needed to park several members of the Miami Heat there in the first round of the playoffs. But when Shumpert was lost to a torn ACL in Game 1 in Miami, the series was as good as over. The Knicks were dismissed in five games.
In the offseason, Grunwald and owner James Dolan terrified some fans by cooking up a sign-and-trade that would swap Shumpert for Steve Nash, a 38-year-old, high-priced point guard with back issues. Thankfully, that attempt to mortgage the future was scuppered and the Knicks retained their rookie sensation.
Shumpert's return is expected to be sometime between December and February. As he offers more offense than Brewer and more defense than Smith, he should slot right into the starting five once he's 100 percent.
St. Patrick's Day
Amar'e is sporting the new arm sling from Hugo Boss.
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PG Raymond Felton, SG Iman Shumpert, SF Ronnie Brewer, PF Carmelo Anthony, C Tyson Chandler
I hate to be a "negative Nancy," but I fully expect Amar'e Stoudemire to find himself ailing late in the season. While Woodson's offensive game plan will save the wear-and-tear that Mike D'Antoni inflicted on his power forward, Amar'e's body looked very precarious for most of last season, including under Woodson.
And that was before he lost a fight with a fire extinguisher after Game 2 against Miami.
Stoudemire sat out from March 25 to April 20 last season, and returned with newfound vigor. When the Knicks don their green jerseys for Paddy's Day, they will be playing in L.A. vs. the Clippers. It will be their 64th game of the season. And Amar'e is sure to be gimpy.
Remember when he hurt his back attempting a dunk in warmups during the 2011 playoffs?
The 6'7" Brewer gives the Knicks options at both the 2 and the 3, as pointed out by Zach Lowe of SI.com. With Shumpert healthy, Brewer could find himself being utilized at small forward. And Carmelo proved last year that he can play the 4 effectively.
That's why this could easily be the starting five late in the season as the infirm regain their strength for the playoffs. Even if Amar'e is healthy, he could also spell Camby on the second unit so he stays fresh. It just might help the spacing of the starting five on offense if Amar'e comes off the bench.
Crunch Time and Playoffs
'With a rebel yell, more, more, more.'
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PG Jason Kidd, SG Iman Shumpert, SF Carmelo Anthony, PF Marcus Camby, C Tyson Chandler
This may never be the actual lineup at tipoff for any Knicks game. However, I fully expect these five guys to be the ones on the court in the final minutes of close games down the stretch in April and May (and June, ideally).
Kidd won't mind not being on the court at the start of games. Let Felton, 10 years his junior, handle the game in the early running. But Kidd absolutely wants the ball when the game is on the line. You don't get to be a Hall of Fame point guard or an NBA champion unless you have that burning desire to guide your team to victory.
Mike Woodson prizes defense, and this lineup combines his best defenders with his best scorer. Kidd can distribute deftly, and Shumpert, Camby and Chandler are on the short list of the best defenders in the NBA. Alternately, Brewer could find himself at the 3 with Anthony playing the 4, but it's tough to go undersized down low when the game hangs in the balance.
Camby is a dual threat, offering both elite defense and insatiable rebounding on both ends of the floor (he led the NBA in rebounding percentage last season). When big games are being decided, offensive rebounds can make all the difference.
With the game on the line, I expect to see the the second-year dynamo, the 19th-year sage, Melo and the Twin Towers on the floor. This just could find the Knicks making their deepest postseason run since the last time Camby and Kurt Thomas were on the team.
Follow me. I booed Sacramento's Isaiah Thomas (no relation) last season. Poor kid.