Today the Knicks will play their first summer league game, which will be at 4pm EST. Looking over the team, I’m having a hard time figuring out who the starting 5 will be. New York does have 5 players who are on their roster: Robinson, Gallinari, Chandler, Balkman, and Collins. The obvious choice is to make them the starters.
However, this may not be the best decision. The Knicks will want to give a lot of run to their first round draft pick Danilo Gallinari. Gallo would (at least according to the heights listed by the Knicks) be the tallest man on the court, which would make him the defacto center. Unfortunately it may not be a great idea to put your European teenager at center in his first professional contest. Of the three forwards Wilson Chandler has the best bulk/height ratio (230lbs, 6-8), and Balkman has the most quickness. So you may see Renaldo at SF, Gallo at PF, and Chandler at C.
This smaller lineup does make sense, especially considering that D’Antoni likes to play quick, but what if they face a team with a rather large NBA front court player? Today that question will be answered when they face the Cavs whose summer roster features Robert “Tractor” Traylor. One way to combat a larger player is to run more, but if the pace slows down and Traylor is eating the team up on the inside, the Knicks can use summer league veteran Paul Miller or 7 footer Zhang Songtao. On the other hand if the team wanted to give Gallinari a taste of what he might face at power forward in the NBA, they just might play him at center and force him to defend Traylor.
As for the back court, the team wouldn’t have invited Nate Robinson to Las Vegas and not play him. Last year they specifically asked Robinson to be the point guard, forcing him to share the ball more. If they do that this year, Mardy Collins might not be starting. Collins is an awful shooter and playing him at the 2 would be a disaster.
If they use Collins at the point Nate would slide to the 2, but that seems counterproductive to what the team would like to do during the season. Walsh has publicly stated his like for Jamal Crawford, and it’s been reported that the team would want him to concentrate on being a shooting guard not a point guard. If the Knicks buyout or send Stephon Marbury home, they only have Duhon, Robinson, and Collins as point guards on the roster. Considering the possibility that Collins may be released to sign with the Latvian team of his choice (VEF RIGA might be a good fit) then it definitely doesn’t make sense to have Robinson waste time at the shooting guard.
Hence my choice for starting shooting guard would be the 6-4 22 year old Von Wafer, who has the most recent NBA experience (29 games for Denver and Portland last year and 46 games total over three years). According to his D-League and college stats Wafer is a strong three point shooter, and would be a better fit for D’Antoni’s offense than Collins. Other options might be Antonio Graves, a combo guard for Pitt and France’s Pau-Orthez, and Marcus Hall a long range bomber who connected on 38% of his treys at Colorado last year. Graves was supposedly a good defender in college, and seems to have done well (at least in one game) in France. Hall doesn’t have Wafer’s professional experience or and at 6-2 is a little undersized for an NBA shooting guard.
The main focus of the Knicks summer will be on Gallinari, but where he plays and who he plays with may make for some interesting sub-plots.