NBA fans around the world: rejoice. The 2016-17 NBA season is quickly approaching. Over a five week span, Last Word On Pro Basketball will provide a breakdown of the New York Knicks roster, looking at a different position each week. In part three, we look at the small forwards.
New York Knicks Roster Breakdown: Small Forwards
The Knicks roster was almost entirely revamped over the off-season. The one area that did not see much of any turnover is the small forward position. Cleanthony Early is no longer with the team. After two years of bouncing back and forth between the D-League and the NBA, New York had a good idea what the ceiling was with him. He was only going to receive so many shots (no pun intended). The small forward position may be the most versatile group on the Knicks roster. The three players below have the ability to play multiple positions depending on the match-up.
Starter: Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony is the star player that the Knicks have built their roster around; at least for the time being. Anthony is entering his 13th season in the NBA. His window to compete for a championship with New York is closing and will not be open much longer. The nine time all-star had maybe his best all-around season last year. He averaged 21.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 0.9 steals per game. He was the only player in the league to lead his team in all four of those categories.
Anthony is coming off a summer where he won an gold medal at the Rio Olympics. He has had some of his best seasons following the Olympics, most notably in the 2012-13 season when he won his only scoring title. The key for Anthony is staying healthy. He has not played a full season since his rookie year. If the season does not play out as planned, Anthony may be willing to waive his no-trade clause in order to have a chance at winning a title.
Back-Up: Lance Thomas
The 2015-16 season was shaping out to be a breakout year for Lance Thomas. That was until injury struck. Thomas missed a total of 23 games due to injury. He averaged 8.2 points and 2.2 rebounds in 22.3 minutes per game. He shot a career high in free-throw percentage (85.7) and three-point percentage (40.4).
Thomas spent a lot of time in the gym last season improving his shot. Entering his sixth season, he may have spent even more time this off-season working on his overall game. The 6’8, 235 pound forward has always trained and went about his business with a chip on his shoulder since going undrafted out of Duke University. If Thomas can stay healthy, he might find himself in the running for the Most Improved Player award.
Third String: Mindaugas Kuzminskas
The unknown wild card on the Knicks roster this season is Mindaugas Kuzminskas. He arrives in the “Big Apple” from his home country of Lithuania. Kuzminskas represented them this summer in the 2016 Olympics. This was the first time that most American fans were able to watch him play basketball. His 10.8 points per game during the Olympics was good for 25th overall. The 6’9, 215 pound forward also showed off his shooting touch by knocking down 35 percent of his shots from behind the three-point arch.
The 27-year-old may be entering the NBA as a rookie, but he does possess seven years of international experience. During his overseas career, he has averaged 8.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 0.8 assists in 17.1 minutes per game. Kuzminskas’s skills and experience provide valuable depth to the Knicks roster.
Versatility is the biggest reason that the small forward position is the deepest position on the Knicks roster. At anytime, coach Hornacek could have any two of these three players on the court at the same time.