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Monday, October 7, 2013
Opening Tip: Go big or small?

By Ian Begley

Here's a debate that could rage all year long among Knicks observers: Do you go big or small?

Mike Woodson said Sunday his initial inclination is to go with a traditional backcourt in his starting lineup. This means a bigger shooting guard -- Iman Shumpert or J.R. Smith would start alongside Raymond Felton.

This alignment would limit minutes for the two-point-guard lineups that worked so well for New York last season.

"I know I can always go back to [a backcourt featuring point guards] Pablo [Prigioni] and Raymond," Woodson said. "But at this point I’m going to try a big guard if I can and see how it plays out."

There are several issues to unpack here:

1. The Knicks had a ton of success in the regular season with the "small-ball" lineup. They went 15-1 when Prigioni and Felton started in the backcourt together and 9-7 when Jason Kidd started alongside Felton.

2. But it's worth noting that the Knicks' small-ball lineup really hurt them on the boards and in the paint against Indiana in the playoffs. Indiana outrebounded New York by an average of 10.4 per game in its second-round series win. In their four losses, New York was outrebounded by 61 (including team rebounds). They presumably wouldn't be at such a rebounding disadvantage against bigger teams if they went with a traditional lineup.

3. If Woodson goes with a "traditional" lineup, however, it could limit the minutes for Prigioni and, subsequently, Beno Udrih.

When you're talking about Prigioni, it's worth noting that New York scored 5.2 more points per 100 possessions when Prigioni was on the floor last year. The Knicks' assist rate, or percentage of plays that ended with an assist, was 6.8 percent higher with Prigioni on the court.

4. With a small-ball lineup, Woodson presumably would have fewer minutes for Andrea Bargnani and would be playing Carmelo Anthony at small forward. Anthony scored an NBA-high 28.7 points per game at power forward last season and had success guarding the opponent's power forward, rather than guarding a small, quicker small forward.

All of that brings us to our question: If you were Woodson, would you go with a big starting lineup, or a small one? Or would you adjust based on opponent?

UP NOW: It's early. But so far, Woodson likes what he sees from the Anthony-Bargnani pairing.

Shumpert returned to practice in full capacity on Sunday after being limited on Saturday and missing practice Thursday and Friday with a sore right shoulder. Woodson hinted again that the Knicks would be keeping one of the three big men they invited to training camp. J.R. Smith shot around on Sunday. Carmelo agrees with Metta World Peace that he has a "killer instinct" -- but he doesn't feel the feel the need to show it in public.

Lastly, Chris Smith, J.R. Smith's brother, says he uses Twitter criticism to fuel him. He is confident that he can make the regular-season roster.

WHAT'S NEXT: The Knicks will practice Monday to get ready for their preseason opener Wednesday against the Celtics.

QUESTION:
If you are Woodson, would you play a big starting lineup or a small lineup? Or would you mix and match based on the opponent?

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