Mike Woodson caused an uproar in Knickdom yesterday by stating that J.R. Smith had a shot at being the starting two-guard. As New York Knicks fans hyperventilate about who’s going to start, it’s important to take a step back and realize that the question may not even matter.
The five players who start on October 30th against Milwaukee aren’t going to be the same five who start all year. The Knicks’ starters are going to change throughout the course of the season due to injuries, matchups or simply Mike Woodson’s fancy.
The Knicks used 23 different starting lineups last season, including the likes of Kurt Thomas (17 starts) and James White (16 starts). Woodson has shown a tendency to start certain players to “set the tone”, then subsequently go away from them the rest of the game – James White averaged just 15 minutes a game in his 16 starts. Meanwhile, Smith coming off the bench played more minutes than any Knick last season.
I generally hate clichés, but this one has some credence here: “It’s not about who starts, it’s about who finishes.”
Starters don’t have to be your five best players. In basketball, putting your five best on the court can be a recipe for disaster. A coaches’ main responsibility is to find the combinations of players who function the best together.
The Knicks’ lineup of Raymond Felton-Jason Kidd-J.R. Smith-Carmelo Anthony-Tyson Chandler had the highest point differential per 100 possessions of any five-man lineup in the NBA (min 240 minutes played). Maybe Woodson isn’t so crazy for trying to get Smith court time with the other starters.
Basketball just started up again, and short of preseason games in random cities (Providence?) fans are searching for topics to discuss. The question of starters, however, just isn’t that significant. We have more important things to worry about – like Cole Aldrich or Josh Powell for 15th man? Who you got?
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