The biggest question remaining for the Knicks is how they will handle the returns of Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert. Stoudemire has obviously received much more attention. His defensive deficiencies and inconsistency with Carmelo Anthony raise questions about how he fits in, but Shumpert should not be overlooked either. The fact is, there is a logjam at the wing positions among JR Smith, Jason Kidd, Ronnie Brewer; hell even James White hasn't looked bad in limited time.
The focus needs to be on which areas Stoudemire and Shumpert can supplement that our current players, for all their success, are not fulfilling. To me, the game against the Nets exposed two big ones: non-Melo scoring and perimeter defense.
First: Melo, Kidd, and Smith combined for 79% of the Knicks points last night. While those three should be applauded, the simple truth is that it would be preferable to have more balance. Enter Stoudemire. The Knicks' struggled with Melo on the bench have been well-documented. Stoudemire should be inserted into the lineup with this in mind.
To me, I think playing two out of Chandler, Stoudemire, and Melo can prevent spacing issues. If Stoudemire plays center and Melo plays the 4, Stoudemire can pick to play Chandler's role (no pun intended) on offense without stepping on Melo's toes. If Stoudemire and Chandler are on the floor together, Amar'e can play on the block like Melo, facing up defenders and either taking them to the hole, hitting the mid-range jumper or passing out of a double team. Playing Stoudemire next to Wallace could also work, as Wallace's perimeter play can space the floor for Amar'e and his post defense can alleviate what we will give up with STAT out there.
Shumpert is not the three-point shooter that Kidd and Smith are, but he provieds the best tenacity of the three. If the Knicks are looking to kick off some transition offense or are struggling against the pick and roll, Shumpert is the guy who can fight over screens and eat alive opposing point guards.
With these prinicples in mind, I propose the following guidelines for rotation:
Starters: Felton, Kidd, Brewer, Anthony, Chandler. I thought about Shumpert instead of Brewer, but Brewer will help set the tone defensively and on the glass. Plus, Shumpert should probably be eased into the rotation.
6:00 left in the 1st: Substitutions. New lineup: Felton, Shumpert, Smith, Anthony, Chandler. Shumpert gives Kidd a rest and provides some tenacious perimeter defense, Smith forces teams into a pick their poison situation (guarding Smith with a PF or Melo with a PF).
3:00 left in the 1st: Prigioni, Shumpert, Smith, Anthony, Stoudemire. Really excited to see what a Prigioni-Shumpert backcourt could do defensively. Both are ballhawkers who could force turnovers and hopefully cover for an Anthony-Stoudemire frontcourt.
Start of the second quarter: Prigioni, Shumpert, Smith, Novak, Stoudemire. We are giving up a lot defensively, but Shumpert, Smith, and Novak should be able to provide tons of space for a dynamic Prigioni-Stoudemire pick and roll. If Stoudemire can even be adequate defensively this lineup could destroy some second units.
9:00 left in the second quarter: Prigioni, Smith, Novak, Stoudemire, Wallace. By now, the opposing coach will have adjusted to exploit the Novak-Stoudemire frontcourt. Inserting Wallace gives the Knicks more size/rebounding without closing up the space for Amar'e to work in the middle.
6:00 left in the second quarter: Felton, Kidd, Shumpert, Anthony, Chandler. Starting lineup but with Shump instead of Brewer.
Beginning of third quarter: Starting lineup. Felton, Kidd, Brewer, Anthony, Chandler.
6:00 left in the third quarter: Felton, Shumpert, Anthony, Novak, Stoudemire. Give Chandler some much-needed rest. Novak provides spacing. Stoudemire runs pick and rolls with Felton with Anthony playing on the left block.
3:00 left in the third quarter: Prigioni, Smith, Shumpert, Novak, Stoudemire. Rest Anthony for the stretch.
Beginning of fourth quarter: Prigioni, Smith, Novak, Stoudemire, Wallace.
9:00 left in the fourth quarter: Felton, Shumpert, Anthony, Stoudemire, Wallace. Felton and Anthony come back in, Wallace protects the rim and stays on the perimeter while Anthony and Stoudemire hopefully dominate inside.
6:00 left in the fourth quarter: Felton, Kidd, Shumpert, Anthony, Chandler. Starting lineup with Shumpert instead of Brewer.
3:00 left in the fourth quarter: Felton, Kidd, Smith, Anthony, Chandler. Starting lineup with Smith instead of Brewer.
To me, this is not merely a distribution meant to "keep everybody happy". I think this would be wrong. The goal is to win games and get the best matchups, and I think these lineups do that. When Melo's not on the floor, we have some well-spaced lineups that can pick and roll and longball teams to death. When Chandler's not on the floor, we can play aggressive trapping perimeter defense and can score with teams even if our defense is being exploited. And the minutes breakdown comes out like this: