The roster is slowly being finalized, with Felton's deal. But what might the starting lineup look like, and are there still holes that can be filled with some affordable roleplayers?
So lets start with what we know of the starting lineup:
PG - Raymond Felton
SF - Danilo Gallinari
PF - Amar'e Stoudemire
Felton's signing confirms that TD will be coming off the bench. Felton should be able to run the show better than Duhon, and he knows how to run a pick and roll from his time with Gerald Wallace. He's a little small, just like TD. But he's a willing defender, a more than capable passer (5.6 apg) and can put points on the board. He's not the shooter than TD will bring coming off the bench behind him, but he can slash and drive, and brings toughness and durability.
We all know what Gallinari brings to the table. He is a pivotal starter for D-Antoni's system. In a pinch he can shift up to SG, and (more reasonably) shift down to the 4 in a "Shooters lineup". Don't be surprised to see him at the 4 more, in a shooting lineup with PG: TD, SG: Azubuike, SF: Chandler, PF: Gallo, C:Amar'e. His versatility will definitely get showcased more, and a bigger inside presense should give him less pressure around the perimeter.
Amar'e is Amar'e, I'm not going to argue his value vs. Lee. For D'antoni he's a dream because with a 7 Footer's frame, its a little more reasonable to shift him to the 5 when playing small. I expect him to stay at the 4 most of the time, and for a Center to finally come in to play with the the pieces the Lee trade brought over.
Ok, so now our question marks sit at the 2 and 5. The 5 is a little more clear, with Anthony Randolph and Ronny Turiaf as the clear favorites for the position. I perfonally think Randolph is the better fit to start next to Amare, because he has the height, and his versatility let him play like a bigger more skilled version of Boris Diaw, and this offensive scheme would work wonderfully with a passing, blocking, rim rocking, break running 5, and thats what randolph can bring to the table. Jerome Jordan isn't going to get off the bench until 2011, so I'm not even going to put him in the picture. I think Randolph is the only player of the 3 who is a lock to have his option picked up for next year, in the same way that Walker was a shoe in to get his option picked up after the way he played.
That said the 2 is sort of a mess. There are lots of good players the knicks can rotate in there, from Walker to Chandler, and the newly added Azubuike. Mike ideally would want to have a shooter who can defend here, because by adding Felton and not starting TD, Gallo is the only one who is a legit outside threat in the starting lineup. I imagine that this will cause Azubuike, even if he is still rehabing. I'm personally a big Bill Walker fan, from his shear explosive scoring, but I believe that D'antoni would rather use him in a Nate (when not in the doghouse) role, lighting it up off the bench, and that might prolong his career, so his knees won't do him in like they did in college.
There is some rumored interest in Raja Bell and Rasual Butler, both guards in the Azubuike mold, good defenders with a nice outside shot. But I think Bell will want more than the Knicks should offer. I'm expecting to see some tinkering with the backcourt, and since its his second year Toney Douglas should get a fare shake this time. And I'm hopeful to see Gallo and Walker take the next steps in their game. The big key to a playoff birth for the Knicks may very well be Randolph, if he can put all the pieces together and keep himself on the court, the knicks could have a locked in fontcourt for years to come. I would not be surprised to see the Knicks NOT let Chandler hit restricted free agency next year as Bill Walker will most likely come as a cheaper option, and allow them to keep their options open for improvement at the trade deadline, or in free agency next year.