New York Knicks: Mindaugas Kuzminskas Proving Himself In The NBA

The New York Knicks may have a super sub in small forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas. He’s earning an improved role and increased playing time.

Many knocked Phil Jackson when he supposedly wasted a roster spot on Mindaugas Kuzminskas. The New York Knicks needed all the help they could get during the 2016 period of free agency and opted to sign a rookie to a multi-year deal.

14 games into the 2016-17 NBA regular season, Kuzminskas is shaping up to be the super sub that New York needs.

Brandon Jennings has done an outstanding job of guiding the second unit through 14 games as a facilitator. He’s been reluctant to score, however, which is the direct result of his role as the Knicks’ primary facilitator.

Against the Portland Trail Blazers, the former Liga ACB standout solidified his place as a promising player of intriguing immediate value.

Kuzminskas finished the Portland game with 10 points, three rebounds, one assist, and a steal in 21 minutes. He shot 4-of-6 from the field and 2-of-3 from beyond the arc, and posted a +/- of +12 during a four-point win.

Most importantly, Kuzminskas stepped up and drained a clutch 3-point field goal to help ensure New York’s victory.

The 10 points were a career-high, but this wasn’t the first game during which Kuzminskas made a positive impact towards the outcome. Just two games prior, he scored eight points in the second quarter of New York’s game against the Washington Wizards.

Far more important than the individual production is the fact that the Knicks have been better when Kuzminskas has been on the floor.

The Knicks currently have a net rating of +6.0 with Kuzminskas on the floor—the best mark of any player on the team. The Knicks have a net rating of -5.3 when Kuzminskas is on the bench, which is a difference of 11.3 points per 100 possessions.

Beyond the all-encompassing net rating, the Knicks have been better on both ends of the floor when Kuzminskas is playing.

The Knicks have an offensive rating of 104.8 with Kuzminskas on the floor and 103.7 when he isn’t. The bigger gap is on the other end, where the Knicks have a defensive rating of 98.8 with Kuzminskas on the floor and 109.1 when he isn’t.

That’s a difference of 10.3 points allowed per 100 possessions.

The reality of this situation is that Kuzminskas isn’t yet ready to play 20 minutes every game, but he has earned a more consistent role. He’s played less than 10 minutes in seven of his appearances, which hasn’t always reflected the quality of his performances.

As the Knicks search for improved efficiency and production from the second unit, giving Kuzminskas more playing time could turn things around.

Nothing too drastic needs to be done, but head coach Jeff Hornacek has a perimeter player he can develop along the perimeter in Mindaugas Kuzminskas.

With size, athleticism, range as a shooter, and the ability to create off the bounce, Kuzminskas has tantalizing potential.

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