Down the stretch in the Knicks game on Thursday night, Mike Woodson sent this lineup out on the court: Jason Kidd at the point, J.R. Smith at the other guard, Carmelo Anthony at the three and Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler down low, with Iman Shumpert seeing action here and there for defense.
I was watching with a friend of mine and he brought up a very solid point. When Raymond Felton returns, who will be seeing the pine during crunch time?
It’s a great question that may not have an easy answer. With at least seven guys who the Knicks would want in for the final stretch of a game, Woodson will have to find the right combination on a game basis that will hopefully not upset the guys who feel they warrant the playing time.
Woodson may have to figure this out quick with reports of Felton returning as early as Saturday against the 76ers. It has become apparent that the Knicks need Felton, who has the ability to get in the lane and distribute unlike the other two point guards on the Knicks roster.
With that in mind, it would seem that Felton would easily replace Kidd as the team’s point guard down the stretch. However, many believe Felton wouldn’t be having the season that he is having without Kidd on the court with him. Also, let us not forget Kidd’s ability to hit the big shot like he did against the Nets on Dec. 11.
So, if not Kidd, who else could you take out of this lineup? The next logical choice would be to go up the pecking order and take out the other guard; J.R. Smith. However, Smith is having his best season of his career and he has already insisted that he would rather start than come off the bench. If Woodson decided to cut his minutes, it could only bring up problems.
He too has shown the ability to hit the big shot with two game-winning buzzer beaters on his resume this year.
Obviously, Anthony will never come out and Chandler’s defensive presence down low makes him too valuable to see the bench during crunch time. So the only other option would be Stoudemire, whose defense has been questionable over his career but he has been improving with each game.
If Felton is to take Stoudemire’s spot during the final minutes, the lineup becomes way too small. Stoudemire is also another guy who has already accepted a role with the team’s second unit but was brought in to be one of the go-to guys. His offensive skills warrant playing time down the stretch so I don’t think he will be the one on the bench.
The Knicks have been just mediocre without Raymond Felton in the lineup but that should all change tonight when he makes his return. PHOTO COURTESY: SCOTT HALLERAN/GETTY IMAGES
That being said, what will Woodson decide should be his “final 5?” Here’s what I think: Felton, Smith, Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler. Kidd sees the short end of the stick here despite being a huge reason that this offense flows like it does. The one question that will have to be answered about this unit is can they stay away from that isolation offense that the Knicks find themselves running occasionally.
The thought of Felton, Smith and Anthony all vying for shots in the final minutes could make this interesting but this is the best team that the Knicks can put on the floor.
If this is the decision that Woodson makes, Kidd will have to act like a veteran and accept that he is not playing at the end of the game. It also does not mean exclude Kidd or Shumpert seeing burn at the end of the game in certain situations. This lineup however gives the Knicks the best chance to win if they are trailing or in a tight matchup.
It remains to be seen what will happen but tonight against Philadelphia will give fans their first look at what Woodson’s mindset is for the final minutes. This is the first time all year that the Knicks will have their entire team healthy and playing together so it will be interesting to see how Woodson works this team.
One thing is clear; Woodson has made his decision on his starting five for now. The Star-Ledger just reported that Felton, Kidd and Shumpert will all start tonight against the Sixers along with Anthony and Chandler.
Seems like figuring out a starting lineup was easy enough for Woodson, but will finding that final lineup might not be that easy. The easiest thing to do is to tune in tonight to find out.
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Contributor – Dave Ragazzo – @DRagazzo_Sports
The post What Should the “Final 5” Be For the New York Knicks? Looks Like Jason Kidd Could See the Bench During Crunch Time appeared first on New York Sports Kings.