Often times, NBA teams like to fill their bench out with players who can score in bunches. Such an offensive boost is necessary when sitting down a team’s top scorers.
And over the years, the NBA’s top scorer from a second unit has been continuously recognized as the league’s “Sixth Man of the Year.”
In the early goings of the season, this NBA campaign isn’t shaping up any differently. The Knicks’ own J.R. Smith, and former Knickerbocker Jamal Crawford, are already being talked about as the top two candidates for the award thus far. Smith has averaged 16.3 points for New York, whereas Crawford has poured in an even more impressive 20.7 points per contest for the Clippers.
The ability to hop right off the bench and let it rain from anywhere on the court is an exciting skill to have. Scoring so much and providing that very boost is undoubtedly fun for the players to do, and enjoyable for the fans to watch.
But of course, an NBA’s team objective during a game is to make things NOT so fun for their opponent, right?
Recognizing that priority, it’s undeniable how strong the Knicks’ second unit has been when it comes to maintaining the team’s same level of defensive intensity throughout the game.
Returning after a slow start to the season, Marcus Camby finally made the impact the Knicks have been hoping for during Sunday’s matchup with the Pacers. If a player could in anyway be “explosive” on defense, the big man did so. Grabbing boards, jumping all around, and diving to the ground for loose balls, Camby’s high-octane play never let up during his 12 minutes of play.
But the former “Defensive Player of the Year” award winner isn’t the only secret defensive weapon New York hides on their bench.
35 year old “rookie” Pablo Prigioni shoots out of a cannon from the bench to the hardwood for a spurt of minutes each game, pestering ball handlers without letting up. The Argentine has incredibly quick hands, and enjoys chasing opposing floor generals around the court. Applying defensive pressure in exciting fashion, Prigioni never stops trying to come up with steals, even if it means simply poking the ball away from his opponent.
Even the sharpshooting Steve Novak has gotten in on the act on defense. Firmly asserting during preseason play that his defensive presence (or lack there of) would be what ultimately keeps him on or off the court this season, the Marquette product has been seen on the hardwood plenty thus far.
Averaging 21.3 minutes per game, Novak has kept his hands up in the face(s) of opposing players. What’s more, he’s also been a strong help-defender, trapping ball-handlers in double-teams.
The list of the Knicks’ defensive heroes this month could go on and on. Besides being a scoring machine, Smith is another player who likes flying around the court to man-handle opponents on defense. Having the ever intimidating, aggressive, and vocal Rasheed Wallace as part of your second unit doesn’t hurt either.
Coach Mike Woodson has preached a stronger defensive presence from his team dating back to last season. As the Knicks continue to prove him right, that extra effort on defense has propelled the team to many victories during their strong start.
With all the depth that New York boasts across its roster, it’s undoubtedly crucial that even the second unit buy into the same defensive mentality, so that the Knicks don’t lose a step when the starters come out. So far, the players on the bench have done all that, and then some.