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Thursday, January 17, 2013
Opening Tip: Should Shumpert start?

By Jared Zwerling

Every weekday throughout the season, ESPNNewYork.com will tackle a burning question about the Knicks in our "Opening Tip" segment.

Today's Burning Question: Should Iman Shumpert be a regular starter this season?

Mike Woodson stirred up some intrigue on Wednesday saying he might start Shumpert against the Pistons, but with the Knicks hurting in the backcourt, why not give it a whirl?

Raymond Felton is still out and Jason Kidd has worn down a bit. Shumpert's fresh legs and defensive intensity would give the guys an immediate spark in the first quarter, which they've dropped each time in their past seven losses. Also, Thursday's game has the feel of a exhibition matchup, offering a great testing ground for Shumpert in a starting role.

But the bigger question is: Should he be in the first five for the rest of the season?

That decision for Woodson would be much easier if his team didn't get off to an impressive 8-1 start and 20-8 record through Dec. 25 with Felton and Kidd in the backcourt. During that stretch, they played exceptionally well on both ends. While Kidd is not suited for taxing point-guard duties anymore, he was effective at shooting guard -- hitting the 3, making the extra pass and executing the heads-up play.

When Kidd has been on the court with Felton and J.R. Smith, good things have usually happened. Kidd is the perfect complement to those two because he doesn't need to dominate the ball to create for his teammates, and he can obviously shoot.

One veteran NBA scout loves the idea of Kidd remaining at starting two guard, especially because "Shumpert and Smith will give opponents hell off the bench."

While there's no question Shumpert is a better defender and penetrator than Kidd, will the sophomore be able to knock down outside shots consistently? That's a key factor once Felton continues his pick-and-roll playmaking with Tyson Chandler, and Carmelo Anthony continues to attack and draw double teams in the post.

Woodson could always go with a starting lineup featuring Felton, Kidd, Shumpert, Anthony and Chandler. While Shumpert is 6-5, he's big enough to bang with forwards. Then, the bench would be anchored by Smith, Pablo Prigioni, Chris Copeland and Amar'e Stoudemire. Their biggest weakness, however, would be in the middle, considering the latest setback for Marcus Camby.

Fortunately for Woodson, he's going to have some great pieces to work with -- and an extensive rotation is everything in the NBA today to keep up with the increased speed and strength of the game. If the Knicks can find that right balance and consistency from their first to second unit, they'll be scary.

What position do you think Shumpert should play? Leave us your comments below.

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