One thing is certain right now: We have no idea who is going to start the regular-season opener on Wednesday against the Chicago Bulls. More importantly, Derek Fisher probably doesn't know who is going to start...and he is the dude who actually has control over such things.
An unsettled lineup can be as much a blessing as a curse. I take that back -- it's more like 80 percent curse, 20 percent blessing. It does, however, provide us fans with a chance to dream up our own starting lineups, just for the heck of it.
We're going to do this in draft form -- a five-man lineup can only be picked once. Watch now as seven budding GMs with no discernible basketball knowledge look to send their own unit out onto the floor next Wednesday.
First Round -- Christian Baber:
I'm rolling with Calderon-Shumpert-Anthony-Stoudemire-Jason Smith. Shumpert offers the rare combination of secondary play-making, strong defense, and legitimate size at the off-guard position. Stoudemire should be a terror in the triangle coming off of the backdoor step action and on the low block, especially with Jason hiding on the weak side. Defense and rebounding might be a problem, but hopefully not one a smart defensive scheme, hard work, and Iman Shumpert couldn't mitigate.
Second Round -- MMiranda:
Whether you're running a Melo-centric offense through the Triangle, Mike Woodson's Missionary Sex X's and O's (Sex's & Ohhhhs?), or Mike D'Antoni's laissez-faire system, one constant exists: the more shooters around Carmelo, the better.
Calderon should be a marked upgrade shooting at the point. JR worked well in the starting lineup last year and is a happy medium, shooting-wise, between Shumpert and Hardaway; he also gives the lineup four off-the-dribble creators. Bargnani will benefit from a reunion with Calderon; I sense a Marbury/Van Horn synergy there. Bargnani's been miscast as a shooter for years. I see him as a poor man's Toni Kukoc: not nearly the passer, but a big man who'll enjoy an advantage agility-wise many nights. Deep down, in places people don't talk about at parties, Andrea Bargnani knows he's a Lamar Odom trapped in a Dirk Nowitzki world. Dalembert seems like he'll give you a nice 25+ minutes a night if he gets some touches early. I think Jason Smith will eventually win the starting center spot.
Third Round -- Matt RW:
Considering the fact that Phil seems to think Aldrich is the emergency center, this is probably quite unlikely. However, the point of this exercise isn't to choose a likely starting 5, it's to choose our preferred 5. So fuck it, I'm including Cole. I think this is a pretty balanced lineup. Since Jason Smith will presumably stretch the floor well, Melo should have a lot of room to work out of the post. Also, considering Shumpert and Aldrich are the Knicks' best/only good defenders, it's probably smart to get them both on the floor as much as possible.
Fourth Round -- Seth:
Well, it won't happen anytime soon, but: Calderon, Shumpert, Melo, Stoudemire, Aldrich. I'm comfortable with the Knicks playing "big" around Melo, and I think Amar'e's shown he's healthy enough and amenable enough to passing to be a full-time pinch post resident. People talk about hiding him on defense by playing Quincy Acy or Samuel Dalembert, but neither of those guys has looked good to me on that end. Dalembert makes up for bad positioning with blocked shots (which is fine, but so does Amar'e) and Acy just hacks.
I don't think Aldrich has to get huge minutes, but I think he's the best rim protector to join what is otherwise a bad defensive frontcourt, and I'd like his rebounding in that group as well. And yo, if you want a hook, he'll give you a hook. Seriously, just ask for a hook. Cole's got hooks. Baby, lefty, sky, Captain...all kinds of hooks
Fifth Round -- Jonathan Schulman:
My starting five? Calderon, Pablo, Hardaway, Melo, Amar'e.
I know what you're saying. Melo at the four? N-O. No way, oh it's just hideous! The tricky part here is that I didn't solicit your expertise. I solicited my expert ease with not having one iota of defensive... uh... anything. My squad is gonna run the triangle in 7 seconds or less. I need Tim Hardaway leaking out and sprinting to the hash marks, flanked by Calderon and Prigioni. That's the new and improved pinch post, and you should pass from it. I haven't worked out the rest of it. Just trust me on this one. Just tons of passing, as quick as can be. Everybody bomb threes, and get back on defense so we can get the ball back on offense. Let's lead the league in fewest fouls, most three-point attempts and pace. 98-0.
Sixth Round -- Joe Flynn
Screw it, I'm going with pure sentiment here -- Pablo, Shumpert, Melo, Amar'e, Cole.
I made up my mind on Wednesday night when Pablo allllmost went up for a breakaway dunk and I cried tears of joy. This season is about feeling good about ourselves again almost as much as it is about winning. Pablo will almost certainly be gone next season. Amar'e and Shump might be gone as well. Let all three of them start the opener at MSG, along with Melo and my man Cole.
By all means, change up the starting five for Game 2. Hell, experiment with the lineup all you want, Fish, until you find something that works. But let us start the season in style.
Seventh round -- WScottD
My starting five would be: Calderon, Shumpert, Melo, Smith, Dalembert.
Calderon is obviously the most competent PG the Knicks have to run the Triangle. Shump is clearly the best defender, and would be able to mask some mismatches with Jose; I also think he'd thrive on open shots created by Melo and Calderon. Melo is just 'ight. Jason Smith, I think, has the best grasp on passing from the posts, and we know he's got the nice little midrange game, though it's been a tad off in preseason. Dalembert is goofy and doesn't know what a nap is and can block some shots, and I think I just trust his experience a little more than COLEWORLD.