By Max Marcilla
The Knicks have been widely noticed around the sports world for having one of (if not) the best benches in the NBA. But, are the Knicks so deep, that they don’t even know whom to start?
Yes and No, is the answer to that. Coach Mike Woodson told reporters that he was going to start Raymond Felton, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler next year. But he did not identify the last guard or the last forward that would be standing next to them ready to do battle.
Now the media and Knicks fans are debating who will be in the starting five. With multiple players having their reasons to be inserted into the unit, I will breakdown the candidates of the final two spots.
J.R. Smith: Smith is an underdog to take the second guard spot in the starting unit, but Smith is just as capable as anyone, if not more. J.R. was second on the Knicks in scoring last year, and can provide an immediate offensive presence every game. Last year, at times, the struggling Knicks had to wait for Smith to come in to score, but with J.R. in the line-up the Knicks can watch the point total rapidly ascend on the scoreboard from the start of the game. However, the main disadvantage to that is J.R. could do the opposite. Smith could do what he did best in the playoffs last year, and misfire shot, after shot, after shot.
Also, the Knicks lacked ball movement last year, and if you want a passer in the line-up, J.R. Smith is about dead last on your list. J.R. Smith is a perfect 6th man. You can’t get a man more fit for that job then J.R. However, starting line-up? I’m not sure.
Iman Shumpert: Most everyone who is linked with Knicks nation believes that Iman Shumpert has potential. Shumpert lacks what J.R. Smith possesses, in a natural ability to take over the game scoring, but Shumpert makes up for it in many ways. Shumpert is a top-tier guard defender in the league, and is a much better rebounder and passer than J.R. Smith. While Smith could either make a HUGE positive impact, or a HUGE negative, Shumpert will be a more consistent solid player. Overall, I think the consistent play can easily propel Iman into the last guard spot.
Pablo Prigioni: While it is definitely not impossible for the 36-year old Prigioni to be inserted into the line-up, it is unlikely. Prigioni was in the starting line-up last year in the midst of the Knicks struggles, and immediately helped carry the Knicks to a 13-game winning streak. Prigioni is a good defender, but his best attribute is dishing the rock. For a team that occasionally struggles with ball movement, Prigioni could improve that. The 2 point guard line-up was also displayed last year for the Knicks, and it was very successful. But for Prigioni to start, he might need more than just passing skills. At this stage in his career, it is unlikely that he will develop new skills. It’s a long shot, but don’t count out Pablo.
Metta World Peace: The newly acquired forward is definitely an option for the Knicks.
The bad: Melo would likely have to move to the 4. Well, I don’t know if that’s bad or good, but it’s controversial. Honestly, that’s the only thing that could hold World Peace out of the line-up. Melo was a 3 his whole career, until last year where he moved to the 4. He showed he couldn’t guard some power forwards (i.e. David West) last year in the playoffs, and to go back to the 4 might not be good for Melo. The alternate to moving Melo, is obviously moving World Peace to the 4, but World Peace is small for a 4 at 6’7”.
Andrea Bargnani: Bargnani is a scorer, but not a great defender or rebounder, especially not for being 7 foot. The only way to describe Bargnani is as a scorer. Andrea has struggled with his shot the last few years, but if Bargnani finds it and stays healthy, he can supply some more scoring and size to the line-up. Much like J.R. Smith, Bargnani will have a positive impact or a negative impact based on his shooting, but unlike Smith, Bargnani won’t cause that much harm on a bad day. However, on a good day, Bargnani will light up the floor.
Amar’e Stoudemire: Standing Tall and Talented is his nickname, but unfortunately for STAT, over the last year and a half, injuries have kept him on the bench. Everyone forgets how dominant Stoudemire can be, if he is healthy, he is an All-Star. He is a great low-post scorer, and while he might not be worth the $23 million he is being paid by the Knicks, he is worth a lot as a player. Stoudemire isn’t the tough defender that World Peace is, or the explosive perimeter specialist that Bargnani is, but when he is healthy, there is little to no doubt that Stoudemire is the best overall player out of the three. But is it enough to bring Amar’e back to the starting line-up?
Right now, with all the options, only time will tell for the Knicks.