An endlessly debated topic of the New York Knicks off-season has been how to set their starting line-up. With game 1 rapidly approaching, all we know is that Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Ray Felton will be 3 of the 5.
Most people seem to be in agreement that the most efficient line-up would be Pablo Prigioni at guard alongside Ray Felton and Iman Shumpert at small forward, bumping Carmelo Anthony down to power forward. However that alignment leaves a very oddly constructed second line (+1) of Amare Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani, Ron Artest, JR Smith, Beno Udrih, and Kenyon Martin.
It could be more practical to start Bargnani, bump Anthony to small forward, Shumpert to shooting guard and have Prigioni come off the bench with Udrih and Smith in a guard heavy second line. This alignment would remove the headache of playing Bargnani and Stoudemire together too frequently, which would be a defensive nightmare.
Overall, Woodson is going to have some difficult rotation decisions to make as the Knicks have 11 proven, veteran players. At some point, there is sure to be some injuries to help clear up some of that congestion, starting with Smith missing early season time due to injury and suspension. Ultimately, it won’t matter who starts the game but who ends up finishing it. However, it will be interesting to see how many different small-ball lineups Woodson leans on and how he handles the playing time between Stoudemire and Bargnani, two fragile, offensively gifted but defensively challenged big men.
With Smith out in November, let’s assume Woodson stays with the small-ball starting line-up from last season. The top two guards off the Knicks bench would be Beno Udrih and then Tim Hardaway Jr. Would Woodson only use 3 “guards” in the rotation and just bump Iman Shumpert back to 2-Guard with some of the bench line-ups? Even then, how does he divide bench minutes at forward and center between Artest, Bargnani, Stoudemire and Martin? When Smith is back, minutes will become even more limited.
With Bargnani starting, the Knicks can come off the bench with a two point guard line-up of Udrih and Prigioni until Smith is back, but when he returns…then what? Their second unit frontline would be Stoudemire-Martin-Artest. Ultimately, the division of minutes at forward and center will be most fascinating to watch and will likely come down to what combinations can avoid the most defensive mishaps. Eventually, you have to figure the Knicks will be down to a 9 man rotation, leaving two of their veterans without regular minutes.