Opening Tip: What is missing off the bench?

October, 11, 2012
10/11/12
12:26
PM ET
Every weekday throughout the season, ESPNNewYork.com will tackle a burning question about the Knicks in our "Opening Tip" segment.

Today's Burning Question: A couple of things are missing off the Knicks' bench. What's the biggest one?

The Knicks' starting five has the potential to be one of the best in basketball.

But the Knicks' bench? They're not there yet.

At least for now, until a player from the outside is brought in, a veteran steps up or a training camp invite pulls a bit of a Jeremy Lin, the Knicks' second unit is not complete.

Here's a quick look: point guard Jason Kidd, shooting guard J.R. Smith, small forward James White, power forward Steve Novak (and possibly Rasheed Wallace), centers Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas, and potentials John Shurna, Chris Copeland and/or Mychel Thompson.

When you hear those names, the positives include established point-guard play, 3-point shooting and defense.

But what you don't hear is a second slasher/facilitator (outside of Smith), another solid rebounder (Camby's legs can't do it alone) and a definite post-up player (Camby is more of a floater). While Kidd will make things easier for the second unit, they could struggle at times to find balance and consistency.

White has the athletic ability and seasoned experience to emerge as that second facilitator. As for that down-low player, that has Wallace's name written all over it. The question is: Can he get back into shape by Nov. 1 to be given that role?

Keep in mind that not everything will be so black and white. Mike Woodson likes to mix things up, so Carmelo Anthony or Amare Stoudemire could run with the bench guys as the power forward to give them a post presence. That will help establish that balance and consistency.

Of course, you can't mention the bench without bringing up Iman Shumpert. But even if he returns in January, he'll need much more time to adjust to actual games, which styles vary night to night. Some are fast-paced, while others are grind-outs. Therefore, the training staff will need to limit his minutes so his knee won't feel overwhelmed.

In fact, former All-Star Tim Hardaway told ESPNNewYork.com recently that it took him, and other players he spoke with, really a full year to recover from their ACL tears.

"Every game is different in the NBA," he said. "One game might be running, one game might be standing still or real tight and intense. Some days you won't be able to jump high, some days you won't have the explosiveness. I didn't get 100 percent where I could do stuff every day, all the time, be my regular stuff, until the second year."

While Shump will be a big boost down the road, as a slasher/facilitator and defensive specialist, there are a lot of games to be played from now until then. So the bench needs an upgrade in the early part of the season.

What is the biggest way the second unit can improve? Or do you have a couple? Leave us your comments below.

You can follow Jared Zwerling on Twitter.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Carmelo Anthony
PTS AST STL MIN
27.4 3.1 1.2 38.7
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsC. Anthony 8.1
AssistsP. Prigioni 3.5
StealsI. Shumpert 1.2
BlocksA. Bargnani 1.2