New York Knicks: A Window Has Opened For Mindaugas Kuzminskas

The New York Knicks could be without Lance Thomas for the foreseeable future. A golden opportunity has been created for Mindaugas Kuzminskas to break out.

The New York Knicks are enduring one of the most grueling stretches in recent franchise history. The Knicks are 4-13 over the past 17 games and 2-10 over the past 12, which has resulted in an overall record of 18-23 through 41 games.

On Sunday, Jan. 15, the Knicks lost Lance Thomas and gained the platform for Mindaugas Kuzminskas to break out.

New York fell 116-101 to the Toronto Raptors on Sunday, Jan. 15, which was secondary in the nature of the loss. During the first quarter of the blowout loss, starting power forward Lance Thomas was elbowed in the face by Jonas Valanciunas.

According to Ian Begley of ESPN New York, Thomas suffered a fracture to a bone in his cheek and is suffering from concussion-like symptoms.

This is the perfect opportunity for a breakout to occur.

With Thomas out, the most likely player to consume his playing time is small forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas. He’s been impressing the coaching staff throughout the 2016-17 NBA regular season and is beginning to earn reps as a full-time rotational player.

If recent performances are a sign of things to come, then the Knicks could soon witness the full emergence of Kuzminskas as a dependable reserve.

The past eight games are proof of just how far Kuzminskas has come.

Over the course of the Knicks’ past eight games, Kuzminskas has averaged 10.8 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.0 assist, 0.8 steal, and 1.5 3-point field goals made per game. He’s done so in just 17.8 minutes per game.

That gives Kuzminskas per 36 averages of 21.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.5 steals, and 3.0 3-point field goals made.

During that eight-game span, Kuzminskas has scored at least 10 points in four different games. That includes the career-high 19 points he scored on 8-of-15 shooting from the field during a 104-89 victory over the Chicago Bulls.

That was also the first of back-to-back games during which Kuzminskas received at least 20 minutes of playing time.

In the second leg of that back-to-back, Kuzminskas scored nine points in 23 minutes during the aforementioned loss to the Raptors.

Through 34 appearances in 2016-17, Kuzminskas is averaging 5.6 points, 1.5 rebounds, 0.6 offensive boards, 0.9 assists, 0.5 steals, and 0.9 3-point field goals made in 12.3 minutes per game. He’s doing so on a slash line of .444/.375/.800.

Those season numbers translate to 16.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.8 offensive boards, 2.5 assists, 1.5 steals, and 2.6 3-point field goals made per 36 minutes.

Beyond the individual numbers, the Knicks have net ratings of -0.5 with Kuzminskas on the court and -4.4 without him. The question is: can Kuzminskas improve enough on the defensive end of the floor to warrant a full-time increase in minutes?

With Thomas expected to miss time and the Knicks in need of a replacement, Kuzminskas will have a chance to make a statement.

Fearless and pursuing glory, the Lithuanian rookie has received the opportunity he needs to break out.

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