With Tyson Chandler in New York, getting treatment for his neck strain, Knicks coach Mike Woodson told reporters in Toronto on Friday that he'll likely go with the same starting five from the previous game: Pablo Prigioni, Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony and Kenyon Martin.
The Knicks have used 19th starting lineups this season, sixth-most in the NBA. But once Chandler returns, Woodson wants to lock in a first unit for the rest of the season.
"I've to start thinking about a solid rotation, who is going to play and get comfortable in that regard," the coach said.
Here's a look at three potential starting fives, and the benefits and disadvantages for each one:
FELTON, KIDD, SHUMPERT, ANTHONY AND CHANDLER
This is, of course, the lineup Woodson used consistently after Shumpert returned on Jan. 17. With the addition of Shump, the Knicks had their best perimeter defender on the court to start games. But he was technically out of position at the three, as he's better suited defensively on the ball guarding opposing point and shooting guards.
Also, Shumpert was stationed as more of a decoy offensively, where he would usually spot up from the baseline corner for 3-pointers. But his explosive game is best initiated from the wings, being more of a focal point in half-court sets. On a positive note, he hit a decent percentage from downtown and still made some stops on the other end.
Another weakness is Jason Kidd's decline in 3-point shooting as an off guard. Offensively, he has thrived more as the backup point, setting up plays and pushing the ball in transition to feed potential hot hands J.R. Smith and Steve Novak.
On a positive note, having Kidd's leadership and hustle at the start of games is contagious. In addition, Felton and Chandler can connect on pick and rolls, and Anthony, at power forward, can take advantage of slower mismatches off the dribble and in the low post. However, with Shumpert, Anthony and Chandler, the Knicks' smaller frontcourt would be more susceptible against the likes of the Pacers, Bulls and Celtics.
PRIGIONI, FELTON, SHUMPERT, ANTHONY AND CHANDLER
Woodson told reporters in Toronto that he likes Prigioni at starting point guard because of his smarts and defensive pressure. Prigioni is one of the few floor generals in the league who picks up his man full court to apply extra pressure. It's an underrated tactic that makes the opposing point guard work more, therefore delaying the initiation of an offense.
On the other end, Prigioni is better than Kidd at making plays off pick and rolls because he has a quicker first step. Prigioni has also shown recently that he can knock down the long ball. With him at the point, Felton has adjusted well at times to moving without the ball, shooting quickly and efficiently off different screens. Overall, this two-point-guard backcourt helped Anthony get easier shots in the flow of things against the Magic on Wednesday; with Chandler back soon, he can benefit as well.
On a negative note, Shumpert, Anthony and Chandler remain at the three-to-five spots, completing a smaller lineup. With the East featuring more physical, half-court-oriented teams, that might not be the best fit.
FELTON, SHUMPERT, ANTHONY, MARTIN AND CHANDLER
This is arguably the Knicks' best starting five for two main reasons: First, it allows Shumpert to play at his natural position, shooting guard; and second, Martin solidifies a stronger and bigger frontline, and he also brings defensive versatility and quickness to the perimeter, where he can trap and help a teammate off a switch.
In addition, Martin is used to playing alongside Anthony from their Denver days, and he can score inside off pick and rolls and offensive putbacks. And if the Knicks take off and run from a defensive stop, Martin can finish a fast-break dunk.
As far as Anthony moving to the three, Melo will be Melo. He still has the size, strength, speed -- and skills, of course -- to dominate small forwards. A down-low combination of Anthony, Martin and Chandler would work well together with passing and interior scoring.
Which starting lineup would you prefer? Leave us your comments below.
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