The Knicks Lineup Discussion with Posting and Toasting

An email exchange you don't want to miss.

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As the Knicks get closer to the 25-game mark and the end of David Fizdale’s self-proclaimed tinkering period, we thought the new head coach could use some help in deciding which lineup is the best. And since we don’t take this assignment lightly, we rang Posting and Toasting and asked if they could lend us one of their best people to help with this important task. Sadly, they were all busy, so they sent @shwinnypooh. Not to be out-done, we got Jonathan Macri off his barstool to cover our side of things.

What follows is Part 1 of the email exchange that occurred between these two titans. (Part 2 will appear on Posting and Toasting’s website on Monday)


Macri:

Hey (expletive deleted),

So first, I guess I should thank you for agreeing to humor me in this exercise, although it’s certainly not like you have anything better to do. Let’s call you Ron Baker, actually.

Anyway, lineups…don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it doesn’t look like David Fizdale has settled on one yet. He reminds me of Sideshow Bob in the “Cape Fear” Simpsons episode, and every new lineup combination is a different rake that smacks him in the face. We at least ought to try and help the poor guy out.

Let’s start with this: many in the fan base have been clamoring for a return to the Frank/Tim/Dot/Vonleh/Mitch starting unit, they of the positive 8.1 net rating over 94 minutes. Where do you stand on that?

Shwin:

Nice to hear from you Mrs. Lance Thomas,

Appreciate the opportunity to demonstrate how much more intelligent I am than you and for EVERYBODY in the Knicksverse to witness this beatdown.

Now, to your question about the starting lineup, personally I’d have persisted with the lineup that hung tough with the Warriors and Raptors, yeah. It doesn’t really bother me that Fizdale wanted to switch it up though. Frank really has been struggling offensively — having two strained shoulders may be a factor in this current slump he’s in — and Mudiay did do some nice things off the bench. I can wrap my head around that switch and think it’s perfectly reasonable, but moving Dot and Vonleh out for Trier and Knox is like willingly choosing to give up 130 a night, which they’ve been doing quite a good job of since the switch. Probably not a coincidence.

If you’re looking for more offense with ball movement and pace, probably don’t put Trier in there. He’s a scorer, yeah, but he likes to feel the ball before doing anything with it. If your starting 5 is made up of 4 minus defenders and Mitch, who’s a rookie whose performance on a night-to-night basis is volatile, shit’s going to get ugly on defense.

Whatever. I’m cool with experimenting, I just think there needs to be more balance in the experiment. If it was up to me, I’d probably mess around with a Mudiay/Frank/THJ/Knox/Mitch lineup and see how it goes. Still got 3 minus defenders in there, but you can switch pretty well and you have your best perimeter defender and rim protector in. You also get to see how Mudiay and Frank play together with a spread floor and you should theoretically have enough scoring to at least give yourself a fighting chance between Timmy and Knox.

You think that’s still weak sauce or is that something you might be interested in?

Macri:

Wow. Way to sign off your response with a clip from an HBO show that’s not only been off the air for years, but not even the best one.

I’ll let Tony Soprano tell you why you’re wrong here.

Yeah, I said it…these kids, they got no idea what it takes to be number one.

I get it. I do. We want to see a starting lineup with as many of the young’ns as possible. But three of them? It’s too much, and they’re not ready for it. Knox’s defense is such a train wreck right now that keeping him in the starting lineup causes too many breakdowns. There’s a fine line between “let the kids learn the hard way” and “let the kids make it so that no one else on the court can trust one of their teammates and peeps start up with the stink eye.” Knox is on the wrong side of that line.

Mitch, God love him, is too volatile. It’s important to have a starting lineup that you can trust to remain intact on the floor for a solid five minutes, and like Fiz said before the Portland game, he can’t rely on Robinson to avoid the silly fouls right now.

And then there’s Mudiay. I agree with your sentiment about him and Frank, and think the offense just looks more juiced when he’s in. I just don’t know that him and Tim can ever be passable defensively on the court at the same time. And this team can’t afford starting games with Tim on the bench.

So my alternative proposal: Frank/Timmy/Dot/Mario/Vonleh. Mario makes up for some of what Mudiay brings on offense, and if he’s your 4th best defender and Tim is your 5th, you can more than survive if the other 3 are solid, which is the case here.

Shwin:

Is three young guys really too much? Maybe it is, but Hezonja isn’t the answer to anything. Knox has been bad — shocking for a 19-year old rookie, I know — but Super Mario has been playing like a wet fart. He’s bricking everything, taking horrible shots and tries to create in transition like he’s LeBron. I barely trust him to bring the ball up the floor without throwing the ball into the 10th row, let alone handing him more responsibility by leaning on him to initiate offense more consistently.

After seeing his performances against Boston and New Orleans, Mudiay, in his current form, has to start. He’s pushing the tempo well and finishing at the rim without always falling down.1

He hasn’t racked up a number of assists, individually, but he’s getting the ball moving early and often by forcing the defense to rotate when he penetrates. I love Frank, but that’s not something he’s comfortable doing so often.

I would ideally like Mitch to start, but I’m starting to come around to your and Fiz’s view here. It’s hard to build consistency when you have him getting into foul trouble every other game within two minutes of stepping onto the court.

The same can be said of Frank, to be honest, although he’s not nearly as bad with it as Mitch. Also if Kanter plays like he has the last couple of games, consistently, where he’s actually playing within the team concept offensively and giving a shit on defense, I have very little issue with him starting. Will he? I’m not sure, but for now he is, and so long as that holds true, it seems the most appropriate way to go.

I’m fine with the current lineup aside from Hezonja. He’s been so bad that the success they’ve had has been entirely in spite of him. The obvious move, if you’re uncomfortable with Knox, is to stick Frank or Dot in there. With Frank seeming to have really leaned into this current bench role with ridiculous defensive displays and a renewed, if still inconsistent, offensive vigor after a prolong slump, I think Fiz has to leave him there. Throw Dot in at the 3 so you have two plus defenders in the lineup with him and Vonleh, and add some defensive rebounding and shooting ability into the mix.

Macri:

Boy, I was all ready to defend my Mario point, especially since you compared a fellow Italian to a wet fart…and then I sat down…and I thought about it…and I thought about it some more…and, well…yeah, I just don’t have it in me. The idea of Mario is a beautiful cornucopia of basketball goodness. Actual Mario is leftovers that someone forgot to put in the fridge. It’s been 20+ games in a new environment, and we’re seeing a lot of the same things we saw again and again in Orlando. Let’s move on.

At this point, arguing against Mudiay seems foolish. Since I wrote a piece, like, 10 days ago, essentially saying that he would have to show even more to warrant key playing time at point guard, guess what: he’s shown even more.

Can we can go down the whole road of “what’s the point, he won’t be here next year, and he’s taking time away from someone who will?” Sure. But Mudiay is only 22 years old and his development into a real, live NBA player would not only be a huge feather in the organization’s cap, but it would hasten the development of those around him. Also, if you buy into the whole “losing mindset” thing, being competitive in games this year is a big deal, and will look good to prospective free agents. No reason Frank can’t still get ample time off the bench, including a handful of possessions every game where he runs the offense – something Burke always seems to cede his way.

Can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m with you on Kanter. Plus, Kanter with Vonleh (plus 0.7 net rating as of Sunday morning, according to Cleaning the Glass) is a different animal than Kanter without Vonleh (minus 14.1, aka, the “we want Anthony Davis and we’re not afraid to admit it” Bobcats).

Logically, your Dotson choice makes sense. Too much sense almost – he shores up the defense and his shooting spreads the floor to compensate for the lack thereof elsewhere.2 I just…I don’t know. For as much as we may want to believe that it’s not about who starts, there’s something in me that feels there’s value in Frank being out there with the first five.

Am I being crazy? You can tell me I’m being crazy. It’s ok. I won’t be (too) hurt.

Check Posting & Toasting for Part 2 on Monday!