The New York Knicks have assembled a deep roster with many capable players who deserve playing time. Despite the Knicks depth, only five players can be in the starting lineup for the season opener at home against the Milwaukee Bucks on October 30.
Via ESPNNewYork’s Jared Zwerling, according to head coach Mike Woodson, only three out of five starting spots have been confirmed: Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton. That means that the other two spots remain open. Zwerling addressed some possibilities on ESPNNewYork.com:
Woodson's openness in terms of the startling lineup could mean three things: one, he might be thinking about starting Felton and Pablo Prigioni together, which resulted in a 13-game winning streak in March; two, Metta World Peace could start at small forward; or three, Andrea Bargnani could become the main power forward, moving Anthony back to the 3. Woodson doesn't see a strict role for ‘Melo.
If Woodson and the Knicks want to go small, they could start Pablo Prigioni and Iman Shumpert alongside Carmelo, Chandler and Felton. This would give the Knicks the same starting lineup as the one they used in the playoffs last season.
Having a pass-first point guard such as Prigioni on the floor allows Raymond Felton to be more aggressive and attack the basket. With Felton attacking the hoop and drawing an extra defender in the paint, he has the option to finish at the rim or pass to an open teammate, perhaps Anthony or Shumpert, for an open shot.
Prigioni also provides the Knicks with a full-court defender, as the pesky point guard does not allow the opposition to take the ball up court without pressure.
Adding Shumpert to the starting lineup gives New York a dominant perimeter defender to set the tone defensively. Shumpert has also improved his jump shot and hit 40 percent of his three-point attempts in the regular season (43 percent in the playoffs).
The combination of Prigioni and Shumpert gives the Knicks their best possible defensive lineup when paired with Chandler, ‘Melo and Felton. However, there are some other alternate lineups to consider.
Another option is to start Shumpert and Metta World Peace alongside the confirmed starting trio. This lineup would give the Knicks a menacing defensive lineup, with Shumpert at the 2, ‘Melo at the 3, and World Peace at the 4.
Starting World Peace gives the ‘Melo a bit of a break on the defensive end, as he would not be matched up with bigger power forwards at the 4. While World Peace is one inch smaller than ‘Melo (World Peace is 6’7”, Melo stands at 6’8”), he is about thirty pounds heavier at 260 pounds and plays a more physical game than the reigning scoring champ.
The Knicks would be undersized, however, as Chandler would be the only starter with the ability to protect the rim. New York would still be able to function well offensively with ‘Melo running the show. He would not have to do it alone, as Shumpert and World Peace are both capable of knocking down three-pointers, while Felton can drive the lane and get into the paint.
Woodson can also choose to go big and start either Kenyon Martin or Andrea Bargnani at the power forward position alongside Tyson Chandler. If he chooses to start K-Mart, the Knicks would have two solid defensive big men on the court at the same time, but with limited offensive skill.
By starting Bargnani, the Knicks have the ability to spread the floor while still adding some size. However, Bargnani is not a great rebounder, with a career mark of 4.8 rebounds per game with Toronto.
One final option would be to insert J.R. Smith in to the lineup as the starting shooting guard, with either Shumpert at the 3 and ‘Melo at the 4, or ‘Melo at the 3 and World Peace, Bargnani or Martin at the 4.
Starting J.R. significantly shortens New York’s bench and would not be a wise decision for Woodson. The Knicks need Smith’s scoring off the bench when ‘Melo needs a breather.
Woodson has a difficult decision to make with all the different possibilities on the table. But keep in mind that whatever lineup he chooses to start the season can and most likely will be changed over the course of the 82 game season.
Starting Prigioni and Shumpert gives the Knicks the best all-around lineup on both sides of the ball. ‘Melo is a decent rebounder (he averaged 6.9 rebounds per game last season) and the defensive pressure provided by Prigioni and Shumpert is a great way to start a game.