The New York Knicks are three games out of making the playoffs and with 13 games left in the season, their postseason hopes are dwindling. The last day of the NBA season may prove meaningful t0 provide a dramatic ending for the Knicks, good or bad. It’s still quite possible they get into the playoffs as a seventh or eighth seed which means they’d play the Indiana Pacers or the Miami Heat. New York is hot, winning it’s last eight games. They’re playing the best they have all season, but there’s one glaring weakness to their game and it’s going to hinder them if they do make the playoffs.
New York’s bench play is miserable. As seen last night, the Knicks’ starters were sat down when up by 17 points with just over five minutes remaining in the game. The Philadelphia 76ers then went on a 16-1 run and nearly shocked the Knicks with what would have been a fantastic comeback win. New York starters came back into the game with under a minute left and held on to win 93-92. But as the case has been all season, bench weakness was evident. So if Knicks starters have a bad game, you can understand why they’ve struggled all season. If the starters are off, they aren’t getting help from the bench.
Toure’ Murray has potential, but hasn’t played enough this season to be productive when put into a game at this point in the season. Jeremy Tyler is more of a D-League player in this his third NBA season. He’s underdeveloped as a big man, has stone hands and isn’t capable of doing much to help the team. Pablo Prigioni is adequate every now and then, but not nearly as effective as you’d like him to be. Cole Aldrich was decent for a couple of games, but he isn’t getting much playing time with Tyson Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire eating up minutes, which is a good thing.
The Knicks are 29-40 and that is an accurate measure of the team they are. If you take out this current winning streak, they’re one of the worst teams in the league. The weak Eastern Conference and eight wins a row have kept New York in the playoff hunt. But even if they do get in the playoffs, they aren’t going to win many games with this bench. With the exception of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Iman Shumpert, there’s nothing there. Hardaway Jr. and Shumpert can be good at times, but they are streaky.
Phil Jackson will have his work cut out for him this summer in locking down Carmelo Anthony as well as finding someone to replace Raymond Felton. But the next most important thing (and I bet Jackson realized this after last night’s game) is finding a couple of bench players who can score and play defense. If the Knicks do indeed make the playoffs and their starters don’t shoot well from the field, the bench isn’t going to help at all. Good bench play is a key part of winning championships.