New York Knicks' Bench Is Proving Itself As Legitimate
Oct 15, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas (91) goes up for a shot against Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) during the first half at Madison Square Garden. The Celtics won 119-107. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

The pertinent question about the 2016-17 New York Knicks doesn’t revolve around their stars. It places a bullseye on the bench.

Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and, of course, young Kristaps Porzingis are the stars of the New York Knicks

These are the guys who’ll be leaned heavily upon over the course of 82 regular season NBA games with a keen eye on qualifying for the spring tournament that only admits 16 squads. In such a star-driven league, this idea makes all the sense in the world.

Interestingly enough, though, the stars may not hold the true value of the club and where they’ll finish in the East.

This unproven bench, led by Brandon Jennings and Lance Thomas, is the key.


There’s never a point in tip-toeing around the all-important issue of health. Yes, Phil Jackson did roll the dice on two injury-riddled stars in Rose and Noah. Yes, he did do this despite already possessing a 32-year-old Melo who hasn’t been a model of health in recent seasons.

This only pumps up the value of depth in New York.

Jennings has already impressed. Through the first four preseason games of the year, B-Jennings has not only gotten the job done in absence of D-Rose (7.5 PPG, 3.8 APG), he’s been a crowd-pleaser at every turn.

Jennings’s seamless transition coming into the city has been nothing short of remarkable. Very early on, he’s allowed everybody involved with the Knickerbockers to breathe easier. New York does, indeed, have two legitimate point guards.

The question was really never about Jennings, though. Rather, the issue surrounding the second, third, and fourth players off the bench remained critical.

We already knew what Lance Thomas could do. He’s a coach’s player, a guy who’ll provide everything needed that’s missing in between the stars and the specialists. Thomas’s glue and defense provides Jeff Hornacek a perfect second or third man off the bench.

Now, we truly get to the good stuff. Against the Boston Celtics in Manhattan on Saturday night, potential was flashed.

Mindaugas Kuzminskas — the baby-faced offensive assassin — poured in 18 points on 7-of-16 shooting in just 19 minutes. He also chipped in with 10 rebounds.

Willy Hernangomez added 12 points and 12 rebounds on 6-of-10 from the floor in 24 minutes. Even long Justin Holiday impressed with solid shooting from the outside most of the night (13 points on 5-of-9).

Hernangomez and Kuzminskas, especially, are now showing themselves as more than capable NBA bench players. This is thrilling for Knicks fans considering they had no idea what to expect coming in.

Sprinkle in the likes of Ron Baker, Maurice Daly Ndour, Marshall Plumlee, and the veteran presence of Kyle O’Quinn and Sasha Vujacic, and Hornacek’s bench doesn’t look too bare at all.

This, by no means, suggests New York will boast the top bench in the league. No delusions of grandeur in this regard should be acted upon.

What this early preseason show simply proves is Melo and company do, indeed, have a more than capable bench that can get the job done behind them.

It was the all-important question coming into the new season and seems to have answered itself rather quickly.

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