With a few days before training camp and positional battles begin, today we discuss who will likely be the Knick starters, part of the rotation, and the bench boys. We have considerable depth, but as we said when discussing previews from other sites, Coach Mike D’Antoni has consistently shown himself to be someone who likes a short rotation. Why? A combination of it being easier to develop chemistry amongst a smaller group and the fact that he literally doesn’t seem to trust lots of players.
Last season was the first time he really sort of gave everyone a shot, playing his full roster, but that was only after all hopes for the playoffs were gone. He conceded that perhaps the best and only move for him at that point was to determine who was worthy of being kept. It proved fruitful, revealing that guys he’d normally keep glued to the bench, like Toney Douglas and Bill Walker, could actually contribute. It also showed that others like JR Giddens and Sergio Rodriguez weren’t quite getting it.
That said, it seems unlikely D’Antoni will attempt that same path of giving everyone a shot during the season. Yes, if someone repeatedly falters, perhaps he’ll give someone else a chance, but we saw how long it took for him to ultimately decide to bench Chris Duhon despite him clearly not being starter material. He likely will give everyone a fair shake during training camp and perhaps he’ll even tinker slightly with his rotation during the first month, but by mid-December, baring injury, expect the rotation to be firmly set.
Before we can determine who might be in this group, it’s important to examine the type of players that D’Antoni has liked/disliked in the past.
1. Intelligent players who make the right choices (ie. Chris Duhon versus Nate Robinson, Shawn Marion versus Al Harrington).
2. Ability to play/cover multiple positions (ie. Marion could be SF or PF, Amar’e PF or C, Jared Jeffries would cover 1s through 4, Wilson Chandler 2s through 4s, etc.)
3. Doesn’t like just pure shot-blockers who are iffy rebounders and also don’t play smart/contribute on offense (ie. The Anti-Darko Clause, aka The Things Don’t Look Promising For Timofey Mozgov Corollary. By contrast D’Antoni was fine with Earl Barron because he was a rebounding machine and only attempted smart, in-control shots near the basket. Another player shut out by this rule was Jordan Hill who was a decent rebounder but whenever he was near the hoop he was so nervous he’d rush awful point blank shots that’d miss).
4. Likes solid three-point shooters (see above preferences for Toney & Bill Walker over Giddens and Rodriguez).
5. Incorrect rumored dislike of rookies (he gave decent minutes to Leandro Barbosa, Danilo Gallinari and Toney Douglas when they were all rooks. It’s more the intelligence factor that hurts rookies getting into the rotation, which is likely why Donnie Walsh drafted smart developed players like Landry Fields and Andy Rautins. And when Walsh realized that third draft pick Jerome Jordan was too raw to get minutes under D’Antoni, he let Jordan go to Europe to develop).
6. Prefers players who can run, play lots of minutes, and play hard (aka The Eddy Curry Is Screwed Principle).
In other words, for once pretty much everyone on the roster but Timo and Curry are D’Antoni type players.
To see where the remaining players fit in, check out Part II.
Tags: Al Harrington Andy Rautins Bill Walker Chris Duhon Danilo Gallinari Darko Milicic Donnie Walsh Earl Barron Eddy Curry Jared Jeffries Jordan Hill JR Giddens Landry Fields Mike D'Antoni Sergio Rodriguez Shawn Marion Timofey Mozgov Toney Douglas Wilson Chandler