New York Knicks: What Should Be Mike Woodson’s Crunchtime Lineup?


May 1, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks guard Raymond Felton (2) and forward Iman Shumpert (21) and center Tyson Chandler (6) and guard J.R. Smith (8) and forward Carmelo Anthony (7) huddle after a timeout during the fourth quarter of game five of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs against the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The dog days of the NBA offseason are tough, and August is most certainly the premiere dull month of the offseason. Nonetheless, it’s not too early to start theorizing how teams will stack up two months from now when the NBA gets going.

The New York Knicks have undoubtedly had one of the more interesting summers in the NBA — a controversial trade that brought in Andrea Bargnani, the signings of Metta World Peace and Beno Udrih, and the re-signings of J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin, and Pablo Prigioni encompassed a fairly busy summer for GM Glen Grunwald. Interestingly, Mike Woodson faces a very difficult task this season in figuring out lineups that work for a deep, diverse team. Who will start? Will the Knicks go “big” or “small”? When can we expect a Smith-World Peace reality show?

Who will finish games, especially in key moments?

Woodson has a bevy of options to consider, and of course, it may be predicated on who is having good shooting nights or in foul trouble. Still, without real evidence of how this team will look together, here’s an idea of how Woodson could finish games on the offensive and defensive ends:

On Offense

– Raymond Felton, G
– Beno Udrih, G
– J.R. Smith, F
– Carmelo Anthony, F,
– Tyson Chandler, C

Anthony will obviously finish games on offense — it’s a no-brainer. Smith can act as a secondary scoring option and another playmaker, capable of creating a shot off the dribble and stretching the floor. Chandler, while somewhat of a non-factor on offense late in games, (since teams won’t grant him open rolls or lobs to the rim) can still set a mean screen and provide opportunities for an offensive rebound. Felton has proven to be a viable option late in games, and we know Woodson trusts him. Felton’s handle and ability to break down defense in the pick-and-roll could be essential to running a play late in the game (assuming Woodson is willing to run a play over an isolation).

The decision for Udrih over Shumpert is a tough one, but data seems to back it up. Last year, the Knicks were almost always better offensively when they had two point guards on the floor. Udrih can act as a secondary playmaker, capable of running the pick-and-roll and needling into the lane, especially off of a pass. Likewise, he’s a career 35% 3FG shooter, so he can space the floor. Shumpert would be another good option (especially if he continues to shoot like he did last season); however, he’s not as good of a playmaker as Smith or Udrih, and as of now, a half-season of good shooting is harder to put trust in over Smith and Udrih’s larger sample sizes.

On Defense

– Iman Shumpert, G
– J.R. Smith, G
– Metta World Peace, F
– Carmelo Anthony, F
– Tyson Chandler, C

This is a lineup we probably won’t see this season unless it’s at the end of the game on defense. However, Woodson should give it some serious consideration when he needs a stop. The overall size would allow the Knicks to get away with their switch-happy defense. Shumpert can hassle point guards far better than any of the Knicks’ other PGs (ask Derrick Rose), and Smith, while a frequent ball-watcher, has quick hands and foot speed to at least give the Knicks a solid defensive possession on the perimeter.

Anthony and World Peace are interchangeable at the forward spots, but Anthony has done much better guarding fours, while World Peace has the strength and size to simply bully opposing threes. Chandler, of course, is essential to any of the Knicks’ best defensive units. He’s the best team defender the Knicks have, and thus far, their only true seven-foot center.

It’s obviously difficult to predict these lineups without watching the team or having statistics to back up these units respective efficiencies. However, based on what we know of each player (and Woodson’s preferences) it seems like a safe bet to say that these could very likely be lineups Woodson goes to in crunchtime.

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