Can the Knicks go small, without going smaller?
The Knicks find themselves in dire straights after the injury Tyson Chandler sustained earlier last week. Mike Woodson now finds himself searching for an answer to the team's atrocious play at the beginning of games. Woodson seems hell bent on sticking with Andrea Bargnani as his starting center in the absence to Chandler. Agree or disagree, if this is the route the team will take, it will make things very difficult to be successful defensively in the two-PG lineup. Now I know how set people are on the notion that starting Prigioni next to Felton will heal all wounds due to it's prior success, but the personnel of the Knicks team has changed. The two-PG lineup flourished last season with either Tyson Chandler or Kenyon Martin playing the center position. Both players are quality rim protectors and add a defensive presence in the middle. Now with K-Mart on a minutes restriction and Tyson out 4-6 weeks, who will fill that void? The truth is, nobody on this roster can completely anchor the defense.
This leads me to the question: Should Metta World Peace be inserted into the starting lineup? This would allow the Knicks to stick to the small-ball concept, and insert a player who has made his name as a physical lockdown defender. Metta has been one of the few bright spots for the Knicks to start this season. Whether the team was down by 20 or fighting to keep a lead, he has been one of the few players to play with passion and desire to win. You can also see how much World Peace has evolved as a leader, attempting to pick-up struggling teammates on the floor. MWP has also shown that he can still put the ball in the basket on the offensive end, averaging 11.5 points in 6 games. He has accepted his role as a backup, but is it the correct choice for the team as it stands?
Inserting World Peace into the starting lineup alongside Felton, Shumpert, Melo, and Bargs, would also make rotations more clear cut. The Knicks lack of cohesion may not be completely attributed to not having distinct rotations, but it is definitely not helping the cause. The earlier you can distinguish player's roles on a team, the better off your team will be in the longr un. This has been a downfall for Mike Woodson over the past 2 seasons. Iman Shumpert could also be benefit greatly from World Peace starting. This would allow Shumpert to slide back the 2, where he seems to be most comfortable. Shumpert has not even played a full season in the NBA, and he has been experimented at 3 different positions. How is a player with upside supposed to improve with no consistency in his role?
Another thing to consider is how Metta World Peace would help the Knicks matchup on defense. His versatility is an extremely coveted skill set to a roster comprised of so many one-way players. Depending on the given matchup, World Peace could be used to guard a wingplayer, or shift to the post and bang with the big men. As a matchup with the Rockets looms this week, if the lineup stays the same this would be the defensive matchups: Felton-Harden, Prigioni-Lin/Beverly, Melo-Asik, Shumpert-Parsons, and Bargnani-Howard. The Knicks will already be at a disadvantage in the post matching up with the Howard-Asik combo, but asking Felton to guard Harden will only compound problems. Starting MWP would at least allow Shumpert to slide over and guard Harden from the start. While this is just an example of an upcoming game, the Knicks would have difficulty matching up with most teams if the lineup stays as is.
My belief is that Metta World Peace has been undervalued to this Knicks team thus far. He is a smart player on the defensive end and has given star players fits with his physical style of defense. For a team that has started games lifeless and uninspired, why wouldn't't this be a viable option? As the offense continues to mesh, scoring the ball will not be the team's main issue. As long as Tyson is out, rebounding and defense will be a major source of concern for this team. Metta may not be able to completely decimate these flaws, but my guess is he would certainly help.