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Thursday, October 10, 2013
Opening Tip: Who starts at shooting guard?

By Ian Begley

Iman Shumpert
Iman Shumpert struck the first blow with a perfect shooting day in the preseason opener.
Let the race begin.

New York Knicks head coach Mike Woodson declared on Wednesday that there will be an open competition for the starting shooting guard position between reigning Sixth Man Award winner J.R. Smith and third-year guard Iman Shumpert.

Shumpert got off to a sizzling start on Wednesday, hitting all seven of his shots -- including three 3-pointers -- to lift the Knicks to a win over the Boston Celtics.

But Woodson made it clear before and after the game that he wants to see an open competition once Smith is healthy.

"I'm going to let [Smith and Shumpert] fight it out," Woodson said.

So, who do you think deserves the job?

Below, we offer a few factors to consider when you make your decision:

If J.R. starts, will there be enough offense on the second unit?

Smith averaged 18.1 points last season, leading the Knicks' bench unit that scored an Eastern Conference-high 38.5 points per game in 2012-13.

If Smith is in the starting lineup, it’s fair to wonder whether New York will have enough offense left coming off the bench.

Shumpert looked fantastic on Wednesday night, but can he replace Smith’s 18 points per night? If both Andrea Bargnani and Smith are in the starting five, the Knicks may hurt for firepower in the second unit.

Metta World Peace, Tim Hardaway Jr., Pablo Prigioni and Beno Udrih would be supplemental scorers behind Shumpert if Smith starts.

Is there a player you can count on to create his own shot at the end of the shot clock in that group? If Shumpert's performance on Wednesday was any indication, he has the potential at least to fill that role.

Will the lane be open for J.R. with Melo, Tyson and Bargnani on the floor?

Smith’s numbers from last season indicate he was at his best when attacking the rim.

During the Knicks' 13-game winning streak late in the regular season, Smith scored 23.2 points per game on 49 percent shooting and doubled the percentage of shots he took in the restricted area during the streak (15.6 percent beforehand; 33 percent during).

If Smith is in a starting unit with Bargnani, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, will there be enough room for him to attack the rim? If not, and he has to settle for midrange jump shots, will that hurt the Knicks?

Last season, 35 percent of Smith's shots were midrange jumpers. He made 42 percent of those attempts.

Are the Knicks better off with Shumpert guarding the opponent's top scorer?

Shumpert is the Knicks’ top perimeter defender. Does Woodson want one of his top defenders on the bench in the opening minutes of each game?

The Knicks already have a few regulars who have a history of struggling on defense. So wouldn’t they want Shumpert on the floor as much as possible? Smith can disrupt passing lanes and interrupt opponents on the dribble. But folks in the industry believe Shumpert is an elite defender.

Up now: Woodson kept Smith on the bench all of last season, but he has changed his mind this season. He declared on Wednesday that Smith and Shumpert will compete for the Knicks’ starting shooting guard position.

Rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. had a debut to remember, hitting the game-winning jumper in New York’s preseason win over Boston.

Also, we take a look at just how dominant Amar'e Stoudemire was in limited minutes last season.

What’s next: The Knicks head to Toronto for their second preseason game. They play the Raptors on Friday and may hold practice in Toronto on Thursday. It will be Bargnani’s first game back in Toronto since being dealt to the Knicks.

Question: Who would you start at shooting guard? J.R. Smith or Iman Shumpert?

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