The New York Knicks will open their 2013 preseason against the Boston Celtics tonight in Providence. The Knicks are a team that many observers believe will take a step back this season due to their own age and injury concerns, as well as the improvement of the other teams in the Eastern Conference.
The Knicks still have some big issues to sort out as they head towards the regular season, and tonight’s game will be their first chance to develop their rotation and chemistry. There are still some questions about who the Knicks will use in their starting lineup, and there are major concerns about how the frontcourt will play together.
Mike Woodson has said that he would prefer to go with a bigger backcourt, which means that Iman Shumpert will likely start at shooting guard next to Raymond Felton, with Pablo Prigioni and Beno Udrih on the bench. The Knicks want to leave J.R. Smith in the sixth man role in which he was so successful last season, so Shumpert earns the starting nod.
This is the best move for the Knicks, because Shumpert’s defense is very important to the first unit, and he is not the type of player that constantly needs the ball, making him a better fit with Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks had a lot of success with lineups that used two point guards last season, but those are too much of a defensive liability.
Up front, the questions about whether or not Anthony can play with Amar’e Stoudemire continue to persist. The offseason addition of Andrea Bargnani only adds to the dilemma Woodson faces. In my opinion, the best starting lineup would be Anthony and Bargnani at the forward spots, as Bargnani’s three point shooting fits much better alongside Anthony’s dominant play in the post.
That allows Stoudemire to come off the bench, where he and Smith will be the focal point of the offense. This situation limits Stoudemire’s minutes, preserving his health, and it puts him in the best position to succeed, which is in the high post with the ball in his hands.
It remains to be seen how Udrih, Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Metta World Peace fit into the rotation. On the surface, there appears to be very limited minutes for those players given how much talent is in front of them (and how much more money that talent makes). Obviously things can change over the course of an 82 game season, but as they currently stand these players appear to be the odd men out.
This game is a great chance for the Knicks to start to figure out what their most effective lineups are on both ends of the court. Although the majority of last season’s core returns, there are still some lingering chemistry issues that need to be worked out, and tonight is a great chance for the Knicks to do that.