By Brian Faith, Knicks Fan Since ‘93
The Knicks got creative this offseason, using trades and the lure of a veteran-laden, championship-caliber team to make several high profile acquisitions. One of the most intriguing moves was the signing of Queens' own, Metta World Peace, to bring his unique talent and personality back home to New York City, where he starred in college at St. John’s.
Coach Mike Woodson fielded questions all summer about how he'd manage rotations with a roster that legitimately runs 12 deep with NBA-quality players. He was asked about the starting lineup, he was asked about the closing lineup, and he consistently responded by saying he has options. And World Peace's versatility is one of the primary reasons why.
Will he start alongside Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler? Should he come off the bench with the second unit as a defensive stopper? And how will his availability to play big minutes impact the rotation?
Let’s take a look at the ways in which World Peace’s flexibility will impact what Woodson ultimately decides to do once the season tips on Wednesday against Milwaukee.
The Case for Starting MWP
Woodson wants the Knicks to be a top-10 defense this season. It's a lofty goal, but the Knicks have the pieces, and starting World Peace could help make it happen. Putting MWP in the starting lineup opening night will send a message to the other players and opponents that the Knicks are serious about their commitment to defense. A lineup including Iman Shumpert, Tyson Chandler, and World Peace is sure to wreak havoc on opponents in the halfcourt.
Another reason to start MWP is that his talents would be best employed against the best perimeter players in the world. I already touched on his versatility earlier this summer, but it’s worth mentioning again. World Peace’s ability to check the likes of everyone from LeBron James, Paul George and Luol Deng, to David West, Al Horford, and Kevin Garnett will allow the Knicks to dictate lineup combinations and matchups. With many of the best players in the world starting at World Peace’s position,you could argue that he should start as well.
Defensively Metta can take on the task of bodying up the bigger players on the block, while offensively he can space the floor for Anthony to work his magic. If Metta can consistently drain jumpers from the corners, while ducking in from time to time for lay ups, opposing teams will have to put a quicker player on him. That will leave Melo the space to go over and around bigger players on his way to cashing in pull-ups and lay-ins.
The Case for Bringing MWP Off the Bench
The Knicks did their most damage on offense playing two guards, which allowed Melo to have all the space he could ask for to maneuver. If and when he got double teamed, Melo would start a chain reaction of passes, usually leading to a wide open look on the opposite side of the floor. Having multiple ball handlers also took pressure off of Raymond Felton, and allowed him to pick his spots in pick-and-rolls with Tyson Chandler. While inserting World Peace may not screw up the spacing for the Knicks, it does undoubtedly remove a ball handler from the floor. Coach Woodson may elect to get the offense humming early in games before turning to Metta as a reserve.
Bringing MWP off the bench will also allow the Knicks to keep a top-notch interior defender on the court at all times. As we saw in the playoffs, the Knicks are a different team if Tyson Chandler is not healthy. The coaching staff will need to monitor Chandler’s minutes and keep him fresh for the playoffs. One way they can do that is to use World Peace as an indirect substitute for Chandler. Maintaining a presence on the block and on the glass will be essential if the Knicks want to be a top-10 defense.
Will It Even Matter?
As we saw last year with J.R. Smith, who starts is not nearly as important as who finishes. Metta World Peace will absolutely be on the floor to close out games to try and shut down the opposition’s best scorer. The Knicks' depth should buy Coach Woodson some time early in the season to figure out his rotation and minutes allocation. Metta’s defensive versatility can be a huge asset for the Knicks if they can find the right balance on when to unleash him.
What do you think Knicks fans? Should Metta World Peace start? And does it even matter as long as he’s on the floor in crunch time?