With the starting lineup struggling to generate offense, Derrick Williams took over the New York Knicks’ season opener against the Milwaukee Bucks. He dominated the offensive glass, attacked in transition and made a living at the free throw line en route to a game-high 24 points in 21 minutes.
On the heels that impressive showing, Williams has set his sights high; he wants New York to evolve into the best second unit in the NBA.
That may seem like a lofty expectation, but the Knicks certainly looked worthy of the hype against Milwaukee. The reserves scored a combined 73 points, which doesn’t include an 11-rebound and two-block performance by Kyle O’Quinn.
Rather than exiting the game with a sense that they should be starting, Ian Begley of ESPN New York, reports that Williams and the reserves have taken pride in their roles.
"“We have a lot of guys that can play,” said reserve Derrick Williams, who scored a game-high 24 points. “Our goal this year is to be the best second unit out there.”"
If they perform at a level that’s even close to what transpired against the Bucks, Williams’ vision will be realized.
Clearly, one game isn’t enough to sound the alarms and crown New York’s second unit as the best in the NBA. What’s abundantly clear, however, is that the group could be special.
Williams embodies why.
Phil Jackson has acquired a group of versatile players who are capable of playing multiple positions and roles. Williams, for instance, spends time at both small and power forward, attacking from all over the court.
Whether he’s working the baseline as an off-ball target, running in transition, or catch-and-shooting 3-point field goals, Williams can do a bit of everything.
That sets the tone for the rest of the second unit.
O’Quinn and Kevin Seraphin can play either power forward or center, thus making them defensively and offensively invaluable as backups to Kristaps Porzingis and Robin Lopez. Langston Galloway and Jerian Grant can defend and score from both guard spots, as well.
Throw in Sasha Vujacic, who shined with 11 points and four steals against Milwaukee, and the Knicks have a bench that’s equal parts chippy, physical and skilled.
The last time New York competed for the label of the best second unit in the NBA was 2012-13, when it won 54 games. It also complemented Carmelo Anthony with players such as Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler and $100 million man Amar’e Stoudemire—aid that New York fails to provide on paper.
Nevertheless, it’s conceivable that the 2015-16 depth will pay dividends. It’s flush with skilled players with a chip on their respective and collective shoulders.
At this rate, Williams could join Anthony Mason, J.R. Smith and John Starks as the fourth player in franchise history to win Sixth Man of the Year—but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
One step at a time, New York’s depth is coming together nicely.
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