The New York Knicks have added new veteran pieces this off-season including Andrea Bargnani, Metta World Peace and Beno Udrih. Adding these pieces to a veteran loaded roster will lead head coach Mike Woodson to find the best chemistry within his roster to come up with a new “crunch-time” lineup. Last seaoson’s “crunch-time” lineup was Raymond Felton (PG), J.R. Smith (SG), Iman Shumpert (SF), Carmelo Anthony (PF) and Tyson Chandler (C) which was a successful lineup responsible for many of the Knicks 54 wins last season.
The biggest flaw with that lineup was that Iman Shumpert was frequently matched up with opposing small forwards on defense who are almost always stronger than him, and use their size and strength to shoot over him or post him up. Shumpert is one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA today. At 6’5″, 220 pounds, Shumpert has the size to compete with guards and forwards, but he is best suited on the perimeter where his on-ball defensive skills can be put to good use.
Carmelo Anthony is in next year’s crunch time lineup because he’s Carmelo Anthony, AKA one of the best closers in the NBA. The one question I have is will that be at the small forward or power forward position next season? Having ‘Melo at the 4 leads to matchup nightmares, but asking him to defend opposing power-forwards in the paint is a tough task. At the small-forward he could still score his points, but have a better defensive matchup.
Raymond Felton is the Knicks starting point guard next season, and will almost certainly be in the game when it matters most. When things broke down offensively for the Knicks last season Felton made some big plays getting to the basket and hitting some clutch threes. Apparently Felton claims he has lost 15 pounds this off-season which is great for him and the Knicks.
Tyson Chandler is the team’s defensive anchor and a leader in the locker room. Despite his offensive shortcomings he figures to be the man in the middle for the Knicks at the end of games because he is a great help defender inside and can drastically alter shots at the rim. There is no reason to think Woodson will take Chandler out at the end of games.
The hard part for Woodson is going to be trying to figure out if he wants to keep Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith in to end the game. Newly acquired Metta World Peace will certainly want to be in the “crunch-time” lineup and with good reason. As a seasoned veteran World Peace can still hit a perimeter jump shot and as we all know is a rough and rugged defender. He could be that missing piece the Knicks need defensively to get those one or two crucial stops at the end of games.
Andrea Bargnani will be another interesting piece to try and fit in at the end of games. At 7’0″ tall Bargnani can be another matchup nightmare for opposing power-forwards on the perimeter. He is looking for a fresh start in the Big Apple after a controversial career in Toronto and there would be no better way to do that than become a key component to a potent Knicks offense. The biggest issue for Bargnani will be his inability on defense and his lack of rebounding, those are two major issues that will land you in coach Woodson’s doghouse, just ask Chris Copeland.
So what will the 2013-2014 Knicks crunch time lineup look like? Well given J.R. Smith’s knee surgery that will likely keep him sidelined in the early portion of the NBA season, I believe Iman Shumpert will slide down to shooting guard, where he will be best utilized, and Metta World Peace effectively takes over as the small-forward. He will be able to step right in and provide some much needed defense at the end of games. If Shumpert can continue his growth on the offensive side of the ball and get that three point percentage up just a bit, not only will he be a star in the making, but he will make it difficult for Woodson to choose J.R. Smith over him when it matters most.
So the best “crunch-time” lineup would be Raymond Felton (PG), Iman Shumpert (SG), Metta World Peace (SF), Carmelo Anthony (PF) and Tyson Chandler (C). This is of course to start the season, and eventually Woodson will have quite a quandary on his hands when J.R. Smith is healthy. You would obviously want the reigning 6th man of the Year in the game in crunch time, but if Shumpert takes that next step Smith might be relegated to bench/backup duties.