One of the most interesting debates in this series is who head coach Mike D’Antoni will play. Coach D’Antoni has hinted recently that he will be cutting down the size of his rotation to eight or nine, or even seven, players. While playing seven players in anything but an elimination game would be a mistake, in my opinion, it is important that D’Antoni picks the players that will have the best impact against the Celtics. Over the last two weeks the Knick bench has played really well in an attempt to grab playing time in the playoffs.
The decision as to who will play and who will not is sure to cause a firestorm. Let’s take a look at the roster to determine who will find themselves in the playoff rotation.
The Guys Who Will Play Big Minutes: The Big 3; Chauncey Billups, Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire will all play 35 minutes or more. Don’t be surprised if Anthony and Stoudemire play 40-44 minutes a game either.
Another player who will certainly play big minutes is Toney Douglas. Douglas brings much needed scoring, defense, and energy off the bench. The reality is, outside of Billups, Douglas, Anthony and Stoudemire, no one is guaranteed to play big minutes. However, there are some guys that will definitely be a part of the playoff rotation but their minutes may fluctuate from game to game.
The Other Expected Members of the Rotation: Shelden Williams, Shawne Williams, Ronny Turiaf andLandry Fields all fall under this tag. While Sheldon and Landry will most likely start against Boston, their minutes remain uncertain. Shawne Williams has the ability to get hot from downtown and could end up playing 30 minutes one night, and 15 the next night. Landry has been in a funk since the Carmelo trade and might receive a quick hook if he is playing poorly. Sheldon Williams might similarly be pulled in favor of small ball. Ronny Turiaf meanwhile, has proved that he is the best center on the roster when healthy.
The Big 3, Toney Douglas, Landry Fields, Shelden Williams, Ronny Turiaf and Shawne Williams, will most likely fill out the top eight spots in the rotation. Given that Coach D’Antoni will not expand the rotation past nine, and at the most 10, the next couple rotation spots are up for grabs.
The Guys On The Fringe: Jared Jeffries, Bill Walker and Anthony Carter. In most of the playoff games only two players out of this group will make the rotation. A case can made for all of them to play. This is where Coach D’Antoni has to make the tough decisions. Does he go for the veteran defensive minded Anthony Carter or does he play Bill Walker who can be lethal from downtown? It will be interesting to see if D’Antoni settles on playing the same eight-to-nine guys every game or if he will evaluate the rotation on a game by game basis.
The Human Victory Cigars: Roger Mason JR. and Derrick Brown will most likely only see their numbers called if the Knicks are up or down by 30. Although some fans might like to see Brown play, I do not believe he will find his way onto the court as his inexperience and poor shooting does not merit a rotation spot.
My Take: I would prioritize the minutes this way:
1. Carmelo Anthony
2. Amare Stoudemire
3. Chauncey Billups
4. Toney Douglas
5. Landry Fields
6. Shawne Williams
7. Ronny Turiaf
8. Jared Jeffries
9. Bill Walker
10. Shelden Williams
11. Anthony Carter
All-in-all, Mike D’Antoni has some tough decisions to make. All of the “fringe players” bring different things to the table so it will be interesting to see what direction he goes in.