Who should be the first player to come off the bench? Our cast of clowns has the answers:
McElroy: Obviously the answer is dependent on who is in the starting five. With JR unavailable, I’d start Felton/Prigs/Shump/Melo/Chandler, bring STAT and Artest off the bench first, have K-Mart play every minute of center that Chandler doesn’t, and let matchups dictate how much time I found for Bargs at the 3 and 4. I also want to see Woody find a role for Udrih who I think could do a lot of the stuff Jason Kidd did last year and possibly even average more than 0.9 PPG in the playoffs. Some may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
Fisher-Cohen: The Knicks have a lot of limited players, guys who are good at one or two things but fall flat on their faces when asked to do more. One key for Mr. Mike Woodson will be putting balanced lineups on the floor. Assuming Felton, Prigioni, Shumpert, Anthony and Chandler start, preserving the chemistry that helped Anthony have a career year and helped what seemed to be verging on a lost cause of a team finally win a playoff series, and assuming Prigioni is the first to the bench given his age, I would sub in Beno Udrih.
With Shumpert still on the floor, the Knicks would have a stopper to contain the best small and a big to help block up the middle, protecting three of the Knicks less gifted defenders.
Cronin: As noted, it really depends on what starting lineup that Woodson settles on and I honestly do not know what he plans on doing. Everyone seems to assume he’ll stick with the Felton/Prigioni backcourt from last season. I am certainly not saying that he won’t do that, but I have not seen any indication from Woodson that he is settled on that lineup. If he does go with that lineup, then I think World Peace will be the first guy off of the bench. If he does not, then I think Prigioni will be the first guy off of the bench.
Silverman: I’ll join the chorus of voices belting out the “Depends on what the starting five is” tune. If Son of Wood goes 2-PG and rolls with the Felton-Prigioni-Shumpert-Anthony-Chandler (the non-Slinky necked version) quintet, and the Knicks are looking for scoring punch, I think the answer’s going to be…gulp…Andrea Bargnani. For all of his faults/flaws, Bargnani can be a versatile scoring big when properly motivated and healthy. STAT’s certainly capable of filling this role as well, as we saw in the brief, 29-game stint before the ligaments and tendons holding his knee together turned into guacamole, but until we/Woodson know that Amar’e's capable of actually suiting up, I say it’s Bargs. Plus, whereas STAT’s low-posting (assuming he enters for Shump or Prigs) does tend to clog the paint, Bargs as a perimeter threat (assuming he’s healthy and his shot’s been Hopla’d such that he’s capable of hitting the broad side of an edificio agricolo) allows the offense to retain all of the floor spacing goodery we’ve grown so fond of. And yes, for all the howls of condemnation that I (and many, many others) unleashed at the news of the trade, I’d be tickled chartreuse if Andrea proved all the haterz wrong by having a boffo season.
Kurylo: When I think of first player off the bench, I think offense. So my gut is telling me Amar’e Stoudemire. Remember the guy worked on a whole new repertoire with Hakeem last year? The guy who, when he was healthy, he was able to score on his own in the low post? With Prigioni and — in theory — Bargnani, you don’t need STAT to anchor that second unit. You need STAT when the A-Team is a bit flat and you need some buckets to stem the tide.
Topaz: At the risk of taking the question too literally, if JR is out, it probably makes sense to start Felton/Shump/Melo/MWP/Chandler in the interest of having Prigioni to anchor the second-team backcourt. A starting lineup including Prigs in the Earl-is-out scenario would leave a second-string backcourt of Udrih and Hardaway (and Shumpert in bigger lineups.)
In this scenario, Amar’e is the 6th man (provided he is healthy). A seldom-discussed point about the Knicks’ offense is that, despite having the third-most efficient offense last season, don’t really have too many guys who can create their own shots on a consistent basis. I’d put Melo, JR, and Felton as the 3 absolutes in that category, with Shumpert and Bargnani on a show-me basis. The Knicks need creators, and a healthy Amar’e is a creator who demands defensive attention and double-teams and can create instant offense. Even in these last two injury-plagued years when he has not been 100 percent, Amar’e has averaged 19.2 and 21.8 points per 36 minutes. When he’s right, Amar’e can create his own shot on the catch and on the drive. And in a JR-less game, the Knicks will need their shot-creators to log minutes and stimulate ball movement as much as possible.
David Vertsberger: With my favored starting five being Felton-Prigs-Shump-Anthony-Chandler, I’d vote for good ol’ Metta World Peace. He could easily come in and swap out Prigioni, and fill the 3 or 4 spot with hard-nosed defense and (hopefully) solid floor spacing.
Two caveats though:
1. Perhaps a Bargnani or Kenyon Martin would be better choice to help limit Tyson Chandler’s minutes?
2. If Beno Udrih was the first man off the bench instead of Metta, this would guarantee a two-PG lineup for a longer stretch of the game. Two-PG lineups work well for the Knicks.