The New York Knicks have made some fantastic additions in the 2013 offseason, but the question of how they'll be used remains to be answered.
In all likelihood, the Knicks will be going with a new starting five this season, with the incoming Andrea Bargnani and Metta World Peace both competing for a forward spot alongside Carmelo Anthony.
Elsewhere on the court, we know Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler will be starting at point guard and center, respectively, while Iman Shumpert is likely to move back to his natural shooting guard position, whether off the bench or as a starter.
The big question, however, is the second forward spot. We know New York can have success with small ball, but with much more depth at power forward and the worry of Anthony taking too much of a physical beating, the Knicks may go in a different direction in 2013-14.
There's a good argument to be made for either Bargnani or World Peace to play alongside Melo, so let's take a closer look to see who has the strongest case to start for New York.
The Case for Andrea Bargnani
Starting Melo at power forward has given the Knicks plenty of spacing on offense, but with the addition of Bargnani, they can now build a small ball-style offense without actually matching him up with bigger players.
The only major difference for New York will be Melo's matchup on the offensive end. As a 7-footer, Bargnani will likely be guarded by the opposition's power forward, leaving Anthony to work on a smaller player whom he'll physically dominate in the post.
Melo is faster than most power forwards and stronger than most small forwards, so as long as he has spacing, he'll find an advantage over just about anyone this side of LeBron James.
Defensively, both Anthony and Bargnani have poor reputations, but the former improved significantly this season. We should expect the same from "Il Mago" given time to work with coach Mike Woodson.
Having two 7-footers in the middle while still spacing the floor on offense is something most NBA teams can't do, so as long as Melo and Bargnani put in the work on defense, this lineup has the potential to cause some trouble around the league.
With that said, this does operate on the assumption that Bargnani can improve his play after a woeful past two seasons with the Toronto Raptors. He has played in only 66 games since the lockout due to injury and has shot only 30 percent from downtown, which won't help when it comes to spacing.
Clearly, this is the best team that Bargnani has ever been on, which will let him work as a role player rather than an offensive centerpiece. He'll have plenty more space to work with when Melo draws double-teams and finally has a real center behind him in Chandler to help out on the defensive end.
Bargnani is still young and has a chance to improve—especially now that he's had a change of scenery—but his recent struggles have kept him from being a lock for the starting job.
The Case for Metta World Peace
If Bargnani can improve his play defensively and start shooting at a higher percentage, he'd be the man for the job, but based on recent performance, starting World Peace makes the most sense.
At the very least, his presence in the lineup gives New York the flexibility to put Melo on the opposition's weaker forward, leaving him more energy to work with on offense.
World Peace is limited offensively, but the Knicks aren't in need of a major scorer here. All they need is someone who can consistently hit an open three-point shot, which he's capable of doing. Over the last five seasons, he has shot 36 percent from beyond the arc, which is the same as Bargnani's career percentage.
In other words, although Bargnani has higher upside, these two are evenly matched in terms of what they bring to the table. World Peace provides more flexibility on defense, while Bargnani has a more diverse offensive game.
One other factor to consider, though, is how the second unit will look depending on who starts, If World Peace starts, the Knicks will have Bargnani, Amar'e Stoudemire, Kenyon Martin and Jeremy Tyler—all natural power forwards—competing for minutes off the bench.
If Bargnani starts, the bench frontcourt will be relatively clear-cut. World Peace will play at small forward and Martin will play at power forward, while Stoudemire will play at center with Tyler taking over when he needs rest.
Unless Bargnani comes into camp playing as well as he did between 2008 and 2010 with improved defense, there's no need for the Knicks to commit to a starter just yet.
Both players spread the floor fairly well and can help to reduce Melo's injury risk, so it makes sense to let them compete in camp or even change the lineup situationally based on whether the team needs extra offense or defense.
Considering the injury history of certain players in the frontcourt, the Knicks could definitely use this kind of flexibility. It'll also stop them from becoming too predictable and instead allow them to exploit different match ups on a game-to-game basis.