The New York Knicks had an active off-season, re-signing J.R. Smith and Kenyon Martin, trading for Andrea Bargnani and adding free agents Metta World Peace and Beno Udrih. Those moves provided the Knicks with the deepest bench in the league.
Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler will be in the starting lineup. Coach Woodson can go in a few different directions with the fifth spot.
The Knicks had a lot of success with a small lineup last season, which featured two point guards, Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni, Shumpert at the 3 and Anthony at the 4. However, they ran into trouble against a more physical Indiana Pacer team in the playoffs.
Woodson could opt for a tougher starting unit featuring World Peace at the 3 and Shumpert at his natural position of shooting guard, or go big with Bargnani at the 4 and Anthony at the 3. Playing Bargnani with the first unit would ensure that he and Stoudemire, both notoriously poor defenders, would not be on the floor at the same time.
Assuming the Knicks stick with the same starting lineup as last season, Bargnani, World Peace, Udrih and Martin (for a full season) should vastly improve a bench that had the fourth-highest efficiency differential in the league last season.
New York's second unit could be a starting lineup for some teams. In fact, as seen in the chart below, many of the Knicks bench players have been starters for the majority of their careers.
Knicks Bench Players
Player Career Games Played Career Games Started
Andrea Bargnani 433 317
Kenyon Martin 714 652
Amar'e Stoudemire 670 624
Metta World Peace 902 832
Beno Udrih 628 243
New York's offensive scheme is based around creating space for Anthony on the wing and Felton in the pick-and-roll by spreading the floor with shooters. The Knicks set a record with 891 made three-pointers last season.
Their second unit is replete with three-point threats. Bargnani and Smith have shot 36.7 percent and 36.1 percent from behind the arc for their careers, and World Peace (34.2 percent) and Udrih (35.2 percent) are not far behind. Rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. knocked down 37.4 percent of his three-point attempts during his junior year at the University of Michigan.
Smith is the Knicks' most potent weapon off the bench. The reigning Sixth Man of the Year was the team's second-leading scorer in 2012-13, with an average of 18.1 points per game. His value lies in his ability to create his own shot, both on the perimeter and by driving to the basket.
Udrih will replace Jason Kidd in the rotation. His presence will allow Woodson to continue to use the two-point guard lineup that was so successful last season.
Udrih is a steady ball-handler who knows how to run an offense and protect the basketball. He does not possess blazing speed, but knows how to use his body to get into the lane and should be effective in pick-and-rolls with Stoudemire.
World Peace and Martin bring defensive intensity and toughness to the lineup. The 35-year-old Martin is the rim protector that the Knicks lacked for most of last season when Chandler was out of the game. He averaged 2.4 blocked shots per 36 minutes during the team's 12 playoff games.
World Peace is far from the elite defender he once was, but he is still capable of throwing wing scorers off their game with his physical approach. His strength will allow the Knicks to cross-match against bigger teams, with Anthony guarding the small forward and World Peace checking the 4.
Stoudemire and Bargnani are the Knicks’ two wild cards. Both are immensely talented offensive players who have failed to produce in recent seasons.
Bargnani was hailed as the next Dirk Nowitzki when the Toronto Raptors selected him first overall in the 2006 draft, though he lacked the work ethic and assertiveness to develop into a franchise player. His production and efficiency has steadily declined since he scored a career-high 21.4 points per game in 2010-11. Bargnani’s drop in field goal and three-point percentage is particularly alarming.
Andrea Bargnani's scoring statistics for 2008-09 through 2012-13 via basketball-reference.com
Bargnani's poor shooting could be attributable to an elbow injury which kept him out of the lineup for several games over the past two seasons. He also appeared to lose confidence as the Toronto crowds turned on him.
The Italian should benefit from a fresh start in New York, where he will not be expected to carry the load. The Knicks' spread offense is well-suited for Bargnani’s game. He could be a deadly threat off the bench if he can regain the shooting touch he displayed earlier in his career.
Stoudemire was an elite scorer as recently as the 2010-11, when he averaged 25.3 points per game for the Knicks. Then a rash of knee and back injuries sapped him of his explosiveness and limited the six-time All-Star to just 76 games over the past two seasons.
Despite the injuries, Amar'e was very effective when he was on the court last season, riding a newfound post game to 14.2 points on 57.7 percent shooting in just 23.5 minutes per game. The Knicks second unit can run through STAT in the pick-and-roll or in the post.
New York's first-round draft pick, Tim Hardaway Jr., has the experience and maturity to be effective in the NBA immediately. He is an above-average athlete with excellent size for his position and can score off the dribble or on spot ups. Hardaway will probably be limited to garbage time early in the season but is ready to step into the rotation in the event of an injury.
Jeremy Tyler provides additional depth up front. The third-year forward has nice size and athleticism for a center/power forward and put on an impressive display during summer league. New York also hopes to use its final roster spot on one more experienced big man.
The Knicks' bench is talented, versatile and deep at every position. They can match up against any style of play, withstand injuries and score in a variety of ways. Coach Woodson can count on his second unit to extend plenty of leads this coming season.
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