Burning Q's: Whom should Fisher start?

August, 18, 2014
Aug 18
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With training camp less than two months away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the New York Knicks.

Today's question: Who should be in the Knicks’ starting lineup this fall?

Derek Fisher could have some interesting lineup decisions on his hands.

Whom will he start at shooting guard? Will Fisher play Carmelo Anthony at power forward or move him back to small forward? Will it even matter in the Knicks' new offense?

What about Amar'e Stoudemire? And what's the best way to use Andrea Bargnani?

All of these questions will have to be answered in the weeks leading up to the regular season.

For now, we'd like to present two lineup options for Fisher, along with pros and cons for both.

Before getting into the lineup combinations, we should note that traditional positions aren’t as relevant in the Knicks’ new triangle offense as they are in other offenses. The idea for the Knicks is to find the best combination of talent to maximize the potential of the offense.

With that in mind, we present the options. Take a look, and let us know which starting five you prefer:

1. Start Tim Hardaway Jr. at forward; bring J.R. Smith off the bench: This lineup would feature a backcourt of Jose Calderon and Iman Shumpert with Hardaway Jr. at a forward spot.

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Anthony would play at the other forward spot with Samuel Dalembert or Jason Smith starting at center.

Pro: You have one of the top young shooters in the NBA on the floor in Hardaway Jr.

Hardaway Jr. hit 36.3 percent of his 3s last season, the top mark among rookies who made at least 55 3s. By pairing Hardaway Jr. with Shumpert, you give Hardaway Jr. some help on the defensive end. Hardaway Jr. struggled at times on defense as a rookie. So the success of this lineup could hinge in part on how much Hardaway Jr. has improved on defense. Last season, the Knicks gave up 111.8 points per 100 possessions with Hardaway Jr. on the floor (or 5.4 more than when he was on the bench).

Con: The Knicks had some successful runs with Smith as a starter last season. New York went 15-11 in games in which Smith started and Shumpert came off the bench. As a starter, Smith also shot 43.6 percent from beyond the arc in the final 21 games of last season. Would he be able to shoot as effectively coming off the bench?

2. Start Smith and Hardaway Jr.; bring Shumpert off the bench: This lineup would feature Calderon in the backcourt with Smith and Hardaway Jr. interchangeable between the 2 and 3 positions. Anthony would be at the other forward spot with either Dalembert or Smith at center.

Pro: You probably wouldn't have much trouble finding a scorer in this lineup with Anthony, Smith and Hardaway Jr. on the floor. The trio of Carmelo, J.R. and Hardaway Jr. was three-fifths of one of the Knicks' best lineups last season. With those three on the floor along with Tyson Chandler and Pablo Prigioni, New York outscored opponents by 12.1 points per 100 possessions (though it should be noted that this lineup was on the floor together for just 50 minutes last season).

It would seem the interior defender in this lineup is critical. All other lineups (besides the one mentioned above) with Anthony, Hardaway Jr. and Smith on the floor gave up more points than they scored.

Con: Defense may be an issue with this lineup regardless of who plays center. Shumpert is widely known as the team's top perimeter defender. With Shumpert off the floor, will Smith and Hardaway Jr. have trouble guarding their positions?

Last season, the Knicks were outscored at a rate of 5.6 points per 100 possessions when Smith and Hardaway Jr. shared the floor (approximately 1,065 minutes, per Basketball-Reference.) Will the Knicks' team defense coalesce well enough to compensate for Smith and Hardaway Jr.?

When thinking about this lineup, it's worth considering that, based on net rating, Smith and Shumpert were the Knicks' top two-man combo last season. When they shared the floor (for 830 minutes), the Knicks outscored opponents by 10 points per 100 possessions.

Question: The Knicks used 21 different starting lineups last season and won just 37 games. Which starting lineup would you like to see Fisher use this season?

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Carmelo Anthony
PTS AST STL MIN
27.4 3.1 1.2 38.7
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsC. Anthony 8.1
AssistsP. Prigioni 3.5
StealsI. Shumpert 1.2
BlocksA. Bargnani 1.2