Ranking the Utah Jazz bench among next season’s best

Utah Jazz (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Utah Jazz
Derrick Rose (Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports) /

5. New York Knicks

The New York Knicks’ bench power all begins at the point guard spot. It’s difficult to predict whether Head Coach Tom Thibodeau will grant the starting position to the familiar Derrick Rose, or the (probably?) more valuable Kemba Walker heading into the 2021-22 season. Either way, it’s a rich man’s dilemma: the Knicks should roster a Sixth Man of the Year candidate no matter which course of action Thibs takes.

In 2020-21, Rose averaged 20.0 points and 5.6 assists per 36 minutes in 35 games for the Knicks.  He only started in 3 out of the 35 games he played for them despite averaging 26.8 minutes per night. He seems like the likely candidate to come off the bench, if for no other reason than familiarity with the role.

Meanwhile, Kemba Walker was widely perceived as having a down year for the Boston Celtics last year, but his per 36 numbers were actually a hair more impressive than Rose’s at 21.8 points and 5.6 assists. Still, Walker battled knee issues all season that frequently kept him out of back-to-backs, and produced some long stretches of inconsistent play for the Cs.

At 31 with a recent injury history, Walker finds himself at a crossroads in his career. Can he return to something resembling his peak form and deliver a season worthy of All-Star consideration? Or, will his best days be demonstrably behind him, forcing Thibodeau to relegate him to second unit duties?

Beyond the potential battle for starting point guard honors, this Knicks bench features an intriguing mixture of solid veterans and upstart prospects. Alec Burks projects as one of the league’s most underrated second unit scorers, and Nerlens Noel is one of the best stoppers not to hold down a starting gig. The Knicks will hope that second-year players Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley can develop from unproven talents to winning assets.

This bench mob may not project to be as competitive as the one fielded by the Utah Jazz, but if the pieces fall as New Yorkers will hope they do, they could prove this ranking too low in the upcoming NBA season.