- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Welcome to our weekly Twitter Mailbag, where I take questions from you all on Twitter and answer them in this space. This week, we discuss lineups, J.R. Smith's role, the impact of Jason Kidd's absence and more.
@IanBegley what is the knicks starting lineup gonna be moving forward?
— Muneeb Khan (@Muneebkhan07) November 1, 2013
Hey Muneeb, coach Mike Woodson said earlier this week that he'd prefer to settle on one lineup eventually. But he's also said that he'd switch based on personnel. So he seems to be giving out a bit of a mixed message.
The guess here is that the Knicks eventually settle on one lineup and that starting lineup will include Metta World Peace.
Since Woodson has hinted that he'd like to go big, I assume that means he won't be starting the Knicks' two-point-guard lineup once he settles on set his rotations.
This would allow Anthony to play power forward, where he was extremely effective last season.
I should, however, mention that Woodson said throughout the preseason that he wanted to play a big lineup but opted to go with a two-point-guard lineup in the season opener. So he could be sending smoke screens through the media.
It's also worth noting that the Knicks were extremely effective when Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni shared the backcourt in the two-point-guard set. They went 15-1 in the regular season with those two manning the guard spots last season. So I think Woodson would be wrong to totally disregard this lineup.
@IanBegley thoughts on shumperts increased role this year?
— John Mazz (@J_Mazzz) November 1, 2013
Hey what's up Mazzz? I thought my colleague Ian O'Connor summed Iman Shumpert's importance up well in his column earlier this week. O'Connor thinks -- and I agree -- that if the Knicks want to compete in the improved Eastern Conference, they really need Shumpert to develop into the second-most important player on the team. To do this, Shumpert needs to take a big step forward on offense this year.
He shot the ball well last season, hitting 40 percent of his 3-point attempts. But Woodson would like to see Shumpert improve as the ball handler on the pick-and-roll and in running the Knicks' offense with the ball in his hands.
This is a delicate balance for the third-year guard.
Here's why: While the Knicks would like to see him develop on offense, they still need him to be a lockdown defender. So Shumpert has to find a way to improve on offense while not compromising anything on defense.
@IanBegley Do you feel the Knicks will be better off putting JR smith in the starting lineup? Or keeping him as the 6th man like last year?
— Bryan (@B_Law123) November 1, 2013
Hey Bryan, this is a tough, tough call. But I think ultimately the Knicks will be better off with Shumpert in the starting lineup and Smith coming off the bench. This configuration worked well last season, but that's not why I think it's best for the 2013-14 team.
If the Knicks want to be a top-10 defensive team, which is an important benchmark for outfits that make deep playoff runs, it would behoove them to have Shumpert starting the game against the opponent's top scoring in the backcourt. Smith is a gifted but inconsistent defender. Shumpert is one of the top young perimeter defenders in the NBA.
Also, starting Shumpert in a lineup with World Peace and Chandler gives the Knicks their best chance, I think, to get consistent stops. If Shumpert starts, Smith can be the main offensive focal point in the second unit.
Another reason Smith is best suited to come off the bench? It would help stagger his time on the floor with Anthony's. With both Anthony and Smith on the floor, the Knicks have two players who can create their own shot. And that's not a bad thing.
But if Smith is in the starting lineup, do the Knicks have anyone in the second unit who can consistently create his own look when the offense breaks down?
@IanBegley who do you see playing less minutes once JR returns, especially after hardaway's play yesterday?
— cirino (@CiriNooo) November 1, 2013
I think Tim Hardaway Jr. will end up being the odd man out once Smith returns. Hardaway Jr. has impressed the Knicks throughout the preseason and regular season. But once Smith returns, the Knicks will have a logjam in the backcourt. So it could be tough for Hardaway Jr. and, to a lesser extent, Beno Udrih to find minutes.
This will especially be true if Woodson plays with a two-point-guard lineup, Cirino.
@IanBegley will jason kidd's presence be missed?
— Brian Middleton (@BrianMiddleto19) November 1, 2013
Hey Brian, I think it will absolutely be missed.
It's hard to calculate the value of leadership in a locker room, but Kidd, Rasheed Wallace, Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas had a big impact for the Knicks there last season.
So who fills the void this season? That's hard to say. But it's fair to wonder if anyone on the current roster can lead the way Kidd and last year's veterans did. Those are big shoes to fill.
I think Kidd's presence will be missed on the court as well.
New York's offense seemed to bog down into an isolation-heavy attack late in the fourth quarter against Chicago on Thursday. Anthony missed his final five shots, all of which came at least 14 feet from the basket. And you have to wonder if Kidd could have helped move the ball around the perimeter to force the defense to react, which could in turn have created openings.
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