May 16, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks head coach Mike Woodson speaks to the team during a timeout against the Indiana Pacers during the first half in game five of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports
The Knicks last year, when healthy, had a very effective starting lineup. They played two point guards (Felton and Kidd), two traditional wings (Shumpert and Anthony) and a defensive big man (Chandler). This lineup allowed the team to space the floor with shooting and have constant ball flow because of the two point guards. It clearly worked as the Knicks went on to have the third best offense in the NBA. Now with additions of Andrea Bargnani and Metta World Peace there is a chance this formula may be tampered with.
The Knicks currently have only two point guards on their roster, Ray Felton and Pablo Prigioni. Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal wrote a great article on Prigioni’s effect on the Knicks in the playoffs and how the assist rate of the whole team improves dramatically when Prigioni plays. If the Knicks want to avoid the stagnant and isolation heavy offense that plagued them for times during the regular and postseason they should strongly consider keeping Prigioni in the starting lineup (as they did last postseason). It would also help counter the times when Ray Felton decides he needs to shoot five times in a quarter regardless of shot selection.
If the Knicks do this though, they will need a backup point guard. The team is reportedly interested in a number of free agent point guards such as Sebastian Telfair and Bobby Brown. Neither is likely to be very effective but Pablo Prigioni averaged only 16.2 mpg in the regular season and 20.9 in the post season. He could certainly take on 6-8 more minutes per night and play some with the second unit to help ease the potential pain of playing someone like Telfair or Brown.
If the Knicks start Prigioni and Felton they then have Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Andrea Bargnani, Amar’e Stoudemire and Metta World Peace for two starting spots. Anthony is definitely starting so that leaves the other slot up for grabs for remaining five guys. J.R. Smith is clearly utilized best off the bench and Stoudemire will probably miss almost as many games as he plays so they both are eliminated now too. So it comes down to World Peace, Shumpert, and Bargnani for the last spot.
If Bargnani starts at the four, sliding Anthony to the three, Woodson will be spitting in the face of everything that worked last year. The Knicks and Carmelo Anthony are both clearly better off when he plays the power forward. Though at times Mike Woodson is fairly criticized he deserves the benefit of the doubt here that he will keep Anthony at the four.
This leads to World Peace vs. Shumpert. Shumpert shoots better from three better (40.2%-34.2%) and is a more versatile defender. His on/off court stats are not as good as Metta World Peace’s but that can be attributed to Shumpert coming back 4-6 weeks too early and the Lakers having no bench to speak of. Shumpert would allow for far better spacing and will allow for more movement since he shoots less per 36 minutes (11.7-9.9) and has a higher assist rate (11.6-6.4). These factors and the fact that the Knicks already have at the least Smith and Hardaway Jr. coming off the bench as guards make it more likely that Shumpert will win that last starting spot.
So if the team is looking at Felton-Prigioni-Shumpert-Anthony-Chandler starting five and Smith, Hardway Jr., Bargnani, Stoudemire, World Peace, hopefully Kenyon Martin, and probably another point guard off the bench that is a team with more depth than most, even when you factor in the 35-40 missed games by Stoudemire. This won’t dramatically improve the Knicks defense from a starting stand pointbut the bench is much better defensively while still havingenough offense firepower to really handle most other teams’ second units. It may not look as flashy as the Nets’ starting lineupbut the Knicks should give most teams a really good fight at the opening tip.