Now that the New York Knicks’ roster is largely set, the most challenging task for Mike Woodson entering training camp for the 2013-2014 season is sorting out the rotations. The Knicks appear to be a fairly deep team, with eight players who have started the equivalent of at least three full NBA seasons, as well as the reigning Sixth Man of the Year. However everything other than Tyson Chandler, Carmelo Anthony and Raymond Felton’s spots in the starting lineup appear to be up in the air.
Two is Better Than One
It’s no secret the Knicks were a much better team with two point guards last year. As a team, they were a +264 in the regular season with two or more PGs on the floor (43% of minutes played) and just a +84 with one or fewer PGs on the floor (57% of minutes played). The two point guard alignment keyed both the Knicks’ 18-6 start (Felton/Kidd starting) and 13-game win streak down the stretch in March and April (Felton/Prigioni starting). In fact, their offensive rating was higher, their defensive rating was lower and they attempted and converted more three-pointers with two point guards.
Curiously, the Knicks moved away from the two point guard lineups in the playoffs. The signing of Beno Udrih gives Woodson the flexibility to start two PGs and still have a competent one come off the bench, should he choose to do so. There’s been no indication of which way Woodson is leaning on the two point guard look, but it bears watching in training camp.
Second Unit Bigs
Although the importance of this has been overstated at times, Anthony did have the best all-around season of his career predominantly playing the power forward spot last season. Should the Knicks choose to keep him at the four, Metta World Peace or Iman Shumpert would likely be the starting small forward.
The issue then becomes, can you really bring both Andrea Bargnani and Amar’e Stoudemire as big men off the bench? Both have very refined offensive games and would be able to feast on opposing second-unit bigs, but would also form one of the league’s worst defensive frontcourts. Not to mention the issues they would have rebounding – among all seven-footers who have played at least 1,000 career minutes, Bargnani has the third lowest rebound rate. Bargnani and Stoudemire’s defensive liabilities overlap – how Mike Woodson deals with this conundrum is a big question mark.
A smart solution to would be to start Bargnani while continuing to run the offensive sets that allowed Carmelo to feast on smaller forwards. As a true stretch four, Bargnani would theoretically make the Knicks’ offense even more potent by drawing an opposing big out of the paint, making the Knicks’ two preferred starting points – the Felton/Chandler pick-and-roll and Carmelo post-up – even more lethal.
Now that coach Woodson has shed the “rook” nickname for Shumpert, the moniker falls to Tim Hardaway Jr. When the Knicks drafted Hardaway Jr. it fit with their “win now” strategy. Although he may not have had the upside of some of the names still on the board, he’s a catch-and-make shooter who will be ready to contribute day one. But will Woodson let him?
Woodson, who once (correctly) exclaimed, “Young teams aren’t winning an NBA title” has always erred on the side of playing his veterans. Many of the guard roles seem to be set: Shumpert – defensive stopper; JR Smith – gunner off the bench; Prigioni – pass-first pick-and-roll specialist; Udrih – change-of-pace PG off the bench. In an already-crowded backcourt, it’ll be interesting to keep an eye on whether the neophyte can use training camp to carve himself a role in the rotation.