- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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The New York Knicks have four roster spots to fill before they roll the balls out in October.
The team's core, though, seems to be intact.
So unless Glen Grunwald engineers a blockbuster trade between now and the start of the season, the candidates for the starting lineup are already on the roster.
Below, let's take a look at three possibilities for New York's starting five:
Felton, Shumpert, Anthony, Bargnani, Chandler: The Carmelo Anthony-Bargnani pairing can be potent for the Knicks if both scorers are playing to their strengths. If New York follows the offensive blueprint it established last season, Anthony will spend significant time in the post. If defenses collapse on Anthony in the post -- or mid-post -- it could open the perimeter for Bargnani. If Bargnani can take advantage of those open looks, the Knicks could present a problem for opposing team's front lines.
But this unit may struggle on the other side of the floor. You're asking Anthony to guard the opponent's small forward rather than the power forward. Based on what we saw last season, Anthony seems to be more effective using his size and strength defending players on the interior; he has a tougher time chasing smaller, quicker players around the perimeter.
Of course, you can adjust on defense and have Anthony switch to the opponent's power forward. But that leaves Bargnani to guard the small forward. Based on what Bargnani has showed in the first seven years of his career, this could be a nightmare for New York.
Felton, Shumpert, World Peace, Anthony, Chandler: In theory, this unit solves the defensive problem the Bargnani-Anthony pairing presents. Many feel World Peace can defend power forwards and small forwards. So Anthony could defend the weaker offensive player of the two positions and save some energy on the defensive end. One downside to this lineup? It leaves Bargnani and Amar'e Stoudemire on the bench together. It's going to be tough to find minutes for both big men off the bench. Stoudemire, who will be on a minutes limit this season, played the role of good soldier coming off the bench last season. But if he's buried behind Bargnani on the bench this season, he may not handle it as well.
Felton, Prigioni, Shumpert, Anthony, Chandler: This two-point-guard lineup carried the Knicks to 13-straight wins late last season. This unit also was used in 10 of the Knicks' 12 playoff games. Woodson liked Pablo Prigioni in the starting five because the veteran kept the ball moving around the perimeter and was a pest on defense (though he could be beat off the dribble). If Prigioni is in the starting lineup, though, who will play point guard in the second unit? That issue may be resolved via free agency (the Knicks are looking at Bobby Brown, among others), or via a training camp invite (Toure' Murry is one guard the Knicks will have in camp). The other problem with this lineup is it leaves Bargnani, World Peace, Stoudemire and possibly Kenyon Martin (if the Knicks sign him) on the bench. Can Woodson juggle all of those minutes and keep everyone happy?
Question: If you were Mike Woodson, which players would be in your starting unit?
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1dIan O'Connor, ESPN Senior Writer