After a little more reflection, the Knicks do still have a number of warm, fuzzy factors floating around this team. Whether it’s Carmelo Anthony’s “What is dead may never die” loyalty to a fanbase that routinely calls for his head on a platter or Hornacek’s willingness to experiment with Porzingis at the 5 in the starting line-up, you can tell that people are trying. People still want to be here. And, while advocating for the front office to ship off some of the team’s better, higher paid players doesn’t exactly sound like one of those fuzzy feelings it might just help reveal what has been one of the best, most entertaining things about the Knicks this season. Their wonderful, goofy, unpredictable bench.
POWER RANKING THE NEW YORK BENCH!!
Let’s start first and foremost by saying that this is for pure entertainment value. The below list is no indication of how good these players actually are or for how long they’ll remain on the team. This list is for the fan favorites, for the Euro ballers, and the tough subs with New York attitude. If there were any silver lining to departing from some of the current starting 5, or going into the tank to close out the season, it would be seeing more of these guys.
10.) Sasha Vujacic
Don’t play yourself. Vujacic is just the absolute worst. While he may have a little more charisma and floppy-haired swagger than some of the other guys on this list, he’s a garbage role player and an ugly reminder that Phil Jackson continues to live in the triangular, Rambis-filled past. At least he gets along with KP…
9.) Maurice N’Dour
Out and out hustler. Probably doesn’t get to play enough.
8.) Marshall Plumlee
The youngest of the Plumlee ilk could’ve totally ended up in the 14th spot were it not for his one mad matinee dash.
Willy Hernangomez and Brandon Jennings
Jennings started the year out of his mind, embracing the role of showboat bench spark and throwing the full court press on rival backup guards just for the hell of it. Since then he’s fallen off a bit of a cliff and been exposed for a truly woeful defender. He’ll still hit the highlight play every once in a while though, and being from New York always helps your case.
As for Hernangomez, the Knicks’ glut of centers has really stonewalled him as he’s had very few minutes to show off his smooth offensive game around the basket. For the most part, fans are just thrilled to actually have a few decent rookies under contract. Plus, the smile.
5.) Lance Thomas
Knicks fans have always appreciated Thomas’ defensive grit and lunchpail attitude, but the seventh year forward has been having a bit of a down season after starting with some nasty plantar fasciitis. While Thomas is arguably one of the better players on this list (and under an excellent contract!), he lacks juuust a little of the oomph of some other bench mob members.
4.) Justin Holiday
If Lance Thomas is the longtime faithful girlfriend, Justin Holiday might just be that attractive co-ed at your neighborhood gym. Younger, bouncier, and knocking down 37% of his 3s this year, Holiday has quickly emerged as a player all the fans are eager to resign. A couple of huge offensive rebounds earlier in the season, some nifty finishing around the rim, hell, Holiday even has the Knicks dunking again!
3.) Kyle O’Quinn
Welcome to the toughest, loudest, best beard on the team! O’Quinn can get a little trigger happy and has at times taken his role as enforcer a little too far, but there is no denying the fact that no one on this bench is working harder. Kyle’s hit the 15 rebound mark multiple times this season and can defend the crap out of the rim. On a team with one of the worst defenses in the league, O’Quinn has become a fan favorite just for coming out bellowing and playing his ass off every night.
2.) Ron Baker
Again, this is in no indication of how good any of these guys are.
Nor is this write-up an attempt to explain why in the hell Carmelo Anthony referred to Baker as “Ron Burgundy” during a recent halftime interview. Maybe it’s the derpy face, or the ’70s hair, or the wild flailing coming out of Baker when he attempts to get over a screen or drive into the paint, but people really love this guy. Back when the Knicks were playing decently, fans in the Garden were chanting Baker to get him to come in and play some clean up duty in meaningless fourth quarter garbage time.
And now? He’s starting games.
1.) Mindaugus Kuzminskas
You know you’re in the #1 spot when all of MSG erupts in a “Kuuuuuuz” every time you load up to let off a three pointer. This is not to mention that Kuzminskas already has an excellent nickname in Cheese, or that he resembles a young Christopher Walken in The Deer Hunter. This guy has played in the clutch, he’s started games, he can slide between both forward positions, and promptly shared a “glamour shot” on social media after getting his face absolutely busted open against the Hawks. He gets his arms in passing lanes, he runs the floor, and he’s been integral to the exciting, Euro-ball backup lineups that has helped to make this Knicks season not an absolute gutter fire. If Hornacek is serious about moving Melo to power forward in the future, it might just be to give Kuz his chance to shine in the starting lineup.