After spending a great deal of the 2010 offseason in a quick rebuilding process built around the cap space they freed up, the Knicks seem to have their 2010-2011 plans laid for them. However, one piece of the puzzle that could potentially be up in the air is the starter at shooting guard. The Knicks have a fistful of guys that can produce at the number two, including newly acquired guards Kelenna Azubuike and Roger Mason Jr. and returning players Wilson Chandler and Bill Walker.
Mason and Walker provide definite sparks off the bench. Mason can gun and Walker is athletic. Azubuike and Chandler have the makeup of starters. There may be a position battle to help decide who is best suited for the part.
So between Azubuike and Chandler, exactly who is better suited to start for the Knicks during the upcoming season?
Both players would be fully capable. Chandler has experience in D'Antoni's fast-paced system, and Azubuike comes from Golden State where offense was the top priority.
Through his four-year career, Azubuike has seen plenty of starts and has averaged 10.6 points per game. He is an athletic swingman and he has a jumper. His percentages improve beyond the arc. Many experts will say that he is more athletic the Chandler. His good work ethic will impress the Knicks and help improve team defense.
The biggest question mark about Azubuike is his durability, as he is recovering from surgery for right patella tendinitis. D'Antoni will love to use him in transition and to put up points, but his recovery could be just enough to keep him on the bench.
On the other hand, there is Wilson Chandler. For three years, he's brought a well-rounded game to the Knicks' lineup. At six foot eight, he brings a great deal of size to the shooting guard position. The Knicks would like to see an improvement in his shot-making ability, and with another year of experience under his belt as well as his starting job potentially in danger, Chandler will need to improve his shot selection.
Regardless of what happens, keeping Chandler in the Knicks starting lineup might be the best option for the team and is also the safest play. His offensive production has increased from year-to-year and he is more familiar with the system that D'Antoni has in place. He's seen his field goal percentage increase each year as well. Last season, he shot .479 from the floor. Chandler has pretty good ball handling skills as well, and doesn't turn over the rock as much as Azubuike.
Keeping Azubuike on the bench offers the Knicks many options throughout the game. He could see court time with Chandler and get some time at small forward as well.
If Azubuike can stay healthy and post some steady production, he could even be capable of putting up numbers that will see him contend for the Sixth Man of the Year award.
But right now, Wilson Chandler seems like the best option to start at shooting guard because of his experience with the team. No matter where each player is on the depth chart, each will play a significant role in the teams success during the 2010-2011 season.