With depth at every position, the New York Knicks have given themselves plenty of options with their rotation, but it could be difficult for Mike Woodson to get everyone involved.
According to Newsday, the only players Woody has given guaranteed spots in the lineup to are Raymond Felton, Tyson Chandler and Carmelo Anthony, although there's no word on whether Melo will be playing at the 3 or the 4.
There are still plenty of decisions left to be made—and it's unlikely they'll be final until after training camp—but for now, this is the rotation New York should be going with when everyone is healthy.
The Starting Five
PG: Raymond Felton
SG: Iman Shumpert
SF: Carmelo Anthony
PF: Andrea Bargnani
C: Tyson Chandler
A major part of the Knicks' success last season was the dual-point guard offense and the use of Melo at power forward, but it might be best to abandon those in 2013-14.
While both have proven to work, Shumpert struggled to guard bigger players at small forward, while Anthony eventually injured his shoulder in a match up against David West at power forward.
Luckily, the Knicks have the personnel to make this change without taking away the fundamental values that made their small ball lineup work. The addition of Andrea Bargnani gives Melo a forward partner who can give him just as much spacing in the post as he had last year, while Shumpert's experience playing at point guard should help ball movement.
As usual, Chandler will be the team's defensive anchor, while Shumpert getting the chance to guard players his own size should improve the team's mediocre perimeter defense.
The only issue with this lineup is how the Anthony-Bargnani dynamic will work defensively. Both players are surprisingly good defenders when in the post, but neither has had much success on the perimeter.
Most attribute Melo's improvement on the defensive end to his move to power forward, but there's a chance it's actually because he's been playing under a great defensive mind in Woodson. After all, we haven't actually seen him at small forward in the Woody era.
For now, the Knicks should let Bargnani stay in the post defensively, because if Woodson can get something out of him, it will be tough to score inside against two 7-footers.
If Melo's defense on the perimeter does end up being a major problem, New York can always swap Bargnani with Metta World Peace, although it won't be ideal to have him coming off the bench with Amar'e Stoudemire, Kenyon Martin and Jeremy Tyler—all of whom are natural power forwards.
With STAT likely not appearing in the second night of back-to-backs, there should be plenty of games during the season where that won't be an issue, so this lineup won't be set in stone.
The Knicks have the flexibility to adjust their starting five based on the matchup, so don't be surprised if they go with small ball or a more defensive-minded group against certain opponents.
PG: Pablo Prigioni
SG: J.R. Smith, Beno Udrih
SF: Metta World Peace
PF: Kenyon Martin
C: Amar'e Stoudemire
With the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, a six-time All-Star and two of the most feared defenders of the last decade, there's a good case to be made for New York having the NBA's deepest bench.
There's certainly no shortage of experience in that group and there's a good balance between offensive and defensive-minded players.
Finding playing time for both Prigioni and Udrih behind Felton will be difficult, but if Udrih splits time at both guard positions he might be able to appear for around 10 minutes a night.
J.R. Smith will obviously get the majority of the shooting guard minutes off the bench, but the difference this year is that the Knicks actually have alternatives for his off nights. While it'd be a surprise to see either put up 30 points in a game, Udrih and Tim Hardaway Jr. are capable of at least getting into double-figures at a high percentage, which will be a lot more favourable than keeping Smith out there shooting the team out of games.
In the frontcourt, World Peace and Martin provide all the physical defense New York could ask for and, depending on the match up, there should be games where one of them gets the start against teams with a particularly dangerous forward.
Besides Smith, Stoudemire will provide the bulk of the offense, but it will be important to use him as little as possible before the postseason. The Knicks have proven they can win without him in the regular season, so his health has to be the priority. Based on his play in summer league, when Jeremy Tyler returns from injury he should be a viable replacement for STAT on the second night of back-to-backs.
SG: Tim Hardaway Jr.
SF: C.J. Leslie
C: Jeremy Tyler
Though they won't see much action when everyone's healthy, the Knicks have a good set of young reserves to help cover when players are injured or need rest towards the end of the regular season.
New York struggled with a lot of injuries last year—especially in the frontcourt—and there was even a time when Chandler, Stoudemire and Martin were all injured, while Melo was playing hurt and Bargnani was also out of action with the Toronto Raptors.
Out of these three, it's safe to assume that Tyler will play the most, mainly due to his experience as a starter with the Golden State Warriors and the injury history of players in front of him on the depth chart.
At this point, the Knicks do have one more roster spot open, which could eventually go to one of the team's two most recent camp invites, Chris Smith and Toure' Murry.
Getting an extra big man in there should be a priority, however, so it's possible that Smith and Murry are simply fighting for a spot in the D-League. This will give them a chance to get valuable playing time whilst still being under the Knicks' control.
Throughout the season, it's unlikely New York will stick to any one rotation—injuries, suspensions and match ups will make sure of that—but using this as a base provides balance to both the starting five and the second unit.
Looking at the roster in its entirety, it's clear the Knicks are one of the deepest teams in the league, but whether or not they can convert that into success in an improved Eastern Conference will depend on health and how the new additions mesh in training camp.
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