The New York Knicks are off to a 6-0 start, the first time since the 1993-1994 season. Just a quick recap of what we’ve seen so far: Carmelo Anthony has moved on to the next chapter in his basketball career as a more team oriented player (MVP candidate possibility), JR Smith has become a controlled and efficient scorer (6th man candidate possibility), Tyson Chandler is playing a great defensive game and is benefiting from the point guard triumvirate of Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni, who have gelled all the weapons together through smart decision making into one cohesive team. While everyone is wondering how long this great winning streak will last, I want to look more towards the future.
Amar’e Stoudemire (recovering from Knee Surgery) and Iman Shumpert (recovering from knee surgery on MCL and ACL) are both targeting their returns for January. This would be about 35 games into the season before they can see court time. If the Knicks continue their strong play and lets say have 25-10 start (hopefully better), Where will Amar’e and Shumpert fit in the lineup? – Will they start or come off the bench? and Which players are going to lose minutes?
Lets start with Amar’e Stoudemire
Where will Amar’e fit in the lineup – start/bench?
The Knicks took a big risk signing Amar’e to a massive 5 years 100 million in 2009 knowing that the power forward has huge upside when playing, but is known for being injury prone. The signing paid off in the first season but the second season was disastrous, and the remaining years are left with huge question marks. In the offseason Amar’e worked hard with Hakeem Olajuwon, and he feels rejuvenated and thinks he can return to his old form as one of the elite power forwards in the league.
But truth over harmony, this is not going to happen. At the age of 30, STAT’s body has given up on him, and its pretty clear that we won’t see him in top form for the rest of his career. He suffered a bulging disk injury in the 2011 playoffs against the celtics, then missed a month with another back injury last season, and now is stuck with a popliteal cyst in his knee that requires surgery. This inconsistency of playing time has not let Amar’e get back in the flow of things and we saw this last year. He lost his quick step to the basket, his jump mid-range jump shot was inconsistent, and posed no threat on defenses – and often looked lost out there.
Although, we might not see STAT put up 20 and 10 anymore, this doesn’t mean he can’t play an important role with the team. We know for sure that he will be better than last year and add scoring and energy to a front court that lacks offense. But what we don’t know for sure is whether he will start.
This decision that Woodson has to make is a very delegate matter. There are many factors that play into this decision, and while it may be the smartest move to bench him, STAT will probably be the starter when he comes back in January.
Reasons for STAT to come off the Bench
1. I think the days of Carmelo and STAT existing together in the starting lineup are over. We need a starting lineup that stays consistent and with STAT having all these injuries, he and Carmelo will never get in a groove.
2.Why tinker with the starting lineup of Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Ronnie Brewer, Carmelo Anthony, and Tyson chandler if it’s working so well. We’re 6-0!!! Melo at the 4 seems to be the best place for him with mismatches on offense and he seems to play better defense too. Also a lineup of two point guards has worked very effectively as one is more of a slasher, driver, and kicker (Felton) while the other is more of a true passer and spot up shooter (Kidd).
3. A bench of Pablo Prigioni, Iman Shumpert/Ronnie Brewer, Steve Novak, Amare Stoudemire, and Marcus Camby is ridiculous!!! Amar’e will really solidify a second unit with size, strength, and scoring. In addition, if Carmelo or Chandler get into early foul trouble, he is the perfect substitution. Plus, you still have Kurt Thomas and Sheed to add extra beef.
4.It might be in Amare’s best interest to gracefully return to the team off the bench. If the Knicks start losing once he is reinserted, the media and fans might blame him for the losses.
Reason why Amar’e will end up starting
His ego and the way he views himself as one one of the top power forwards in the league, will probably put him in the starting rotation. He doesn’t want to hurt his image in the league as one of premier power forwards, and I don’t think Mike Woodson wants to create any conflicts with him either.
So who’s going to lose playing time?
Rasheed Wallace, Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas will all see their roles as part of the team diminish. Kurt might even just stop playing and just be a leader in the locker room. I haven’t seen enough of Camby yet to see how he fits with the team since he just came off an injury.
Let’s move on to Shumpert:
Where will Shumpert fit in the lineup – start/bench?
Shumpert is one of those players that any coach would want on his team for his hustle and menacing defense. It was a big loss to the Knicks when he went out in game 2 of the series against Miami since he is such a defensive asset on the perimeter to the team. If the Knicks want to win a championship, they need to stop the quick athletic players that score from perimeter and can drive to the hoop and thats what makes Iman so vital to the team.
When Shumpert returns in January, coming off a major surgery, he of course is not going start right away. In the long term he definitely will start. That means that Kidd or Brewer will take the 2 spot, because Stoudemire will be in the 4 spot, and Carmelo will move back to the 3 spot.
Who will lose minutes?
This is a very interesting topic because it all depends on the situation. Lets take all the players at the 2 and 3 position: you have Shumpert, Kidd, Brewer, Smith, and Novak. Shumpert and Brewer are very similar players as they are both defensive minded and finish well around the rim. But Shumpert (6’5) guards more at the 1 and 2 position while Brewer (6’7) guards players at the 3 position who are taller and stronger. Smith will stay at this 6th man role which he is playing unbelievably well so far this season. Kidd who currently starts at the 2 will lose a lot of his minutes against quick guards but will get more playing time when Felton needs a rest. Then there’s Novak who will hit the three when you need one. This is what is so good about this Knicks team is they have so many options all specializing at different aspects of the game. Pablo Prigioni will also see a decrease in minutes and will only see more playing time if Kidd or Felton get hurt.
As well as the Knicks are playing now, when Shumpert and Stoudemire come back, they will be more of a force to be reckoned with. It may not be easy for Woodson to keep everybody happy, but we have the talent to go very far!