New York Knicks head coach Mike Woodson recently said he was unsure who his starting five would be to start the 2013 NBA season. The Knicks roster was certainly shaken up this summer-- Jason Kidd retired, drafted Tim Hardaway Jr, traded for Andrea Bargnani, and signed Beno Udrih and Metta World Peace-- and with J.R. Smith sidelined for the start of the season Woodson has a couple of ways he can go with the starting unit.
The first, and I think most realistic option Mike Woodson chooses, is this starting five. Woodson is a defensive guy who will likely use Metta early and often this season with Smith out and due to the fact Metta can still hold his own defensively for the most part. Metta is also perfectly fine picking up opposing team's power forwards as he stated to the LA Times last December here,
"I'm stronger than most power forwards in the NBA anyway, it doesn't really matter," said World Peace of the position change. "There's only a couple of power forwards that are, 'Alright, he's a real power forward. He's really strong.'"
Playing Metta with Melo gives Melo the opportunity to guard opposing team's shooting forwards--potentially taking less of a beating in the process-- rather than having to consistently play down low with opposing team's power forwards.
One of the biggest reasons why the Knicks started out as well they did in 2012 was how well they shot from behind the arc. The Felton-Kidd-Smith-Melo-Chandler unit was +137-- as I've mentioned in previous articles-- mostly due to how well that unit gelled together on the offensive end.
Having Shumpert and Metta together for extended minutes could pose potential offensive limitations, but with Smith sidelined and Woodson's past rotation choices you'd think he will opt to go with a veteran who can defend multiple positions like Metta over Beno Udrih, Pablo Prigioni, or Andrea Bargnani.
The next most realistic lineup Woodson might trot out on opening tonight is the unit listed above. Bargnani is coming off his worst season as a pro-- Bargnani's 44% eFG% and 48% TS% were career lows-- so the idea of placing him in the starting lineup is inherently flawed from an offensive perspective.
The Knicks paid a steep price for Bargnani's services-- which at this point I'm not really sure what they are-- so one has to believe the team believes a change of scenery can get Bargnani back to at least his 2010-2011 form.
The Knicks were a much better offensive team than defensive team in 2012-13-- according to the team's offensive (3) and defensive ratings (18)-- so it's definitely plausible Woodson will go with Bargnani to try and ease the offensive production loss from Smith's absence.
Woodson loved playing Felton with Kidd last season and used that backcourt more than any other combination last season. Glenn Grunwald searched long and hard this offseason to find Kidd's replacement and finally landed the guy the Knicks reportedly really wanted in Beno Udrih.
You have to figure Woodson will try and continue what worked last season-- going small and utilizing Melo at the 4-- so Udrih getting the starting nod would not be that outlandish at all. Udrih also runs the pick-and-roll well and is an above-average 3-point shooter. Father Time came for Kidd at an unfortunate point in the season last year, but with Udrih only being 31 years old it seems unlikely the same fate will be facing Udrih this season.
Once Smith returns from injury it should not shock fans to see a bunch of Felton-Udrih-Smith together playing major minutes in the regular season. Kidd averaged roughly 26 MPG last season so Udrih will most likely be the guy to fill that role for this team in 2013.