J.R. Smith has a starting job that is his to win which is pretty remarkable since Smith — the reigning Sixth Man of the Year — is coming off knee surgery in July and hasn’t been cleared to practice.

Where that leaves Iman Shumpert is unclear but if he plays like he did Wednesday he may finally be released from Mike Woodson’s doghouse.

The Knicks opened the preseason with Carmelo Anthony at small forward and Pablo Prigioni and Raymond Felton as the starting guards. Woodson says his plan is to start with a big lineup featuring Andrea Bargnani at power forward and either Smith or Shumpert at shooting guard.

“I’m going to let them two fight it out” Woodson said.

The competition began with Shumpert playing a perfect game. He made all seven of his shots and scored 18 points in the Knicks’ 103-102 victory over the Boston Celtics. It was an encouraging start since Smith is currently sidelined and may not practice for at least another two weeks.

Moreover once Smith is healthy he will have to serve a five-game suspension for violating the NBA’s drug policy. It won’t be determined when the clock starts on that suspension until Smith is cleared to play by an NBA-appointed doctor.

But Woodson appears to be leaning toward starting Smith which isn’t surprising since the head coach has shown that he prefers to Smith over Shumpert in the past. When asked why he would take Smith out of the role that resulted in him having his best season Woodson said: “I think he’s past that. I wanted him to be past that sixth man.

“Let somebody else get the sixth man if he deserves to get that starting job. Last year was last year. He’s capable of defending. That’s the only question I have — are you going to start the game with the mind-set of defending too? I know you can score if you win that starting job. I know Iman can defend. He’s still searching for his offense.”

Woodson says that he “sold” Smith on becoming a top reserve last season and revealed that in Smith’s exit meeting in May he told him “if you come back this year with the attitude that you could possibly win a starting job why not grant him that opportunity.”