Depth proves to be a Knicks’ strength

Isaiah Hartenstein, New York Knicks bench

Jalen Brunson’s strong start made the New York Knicks fans forget about Donovan Mitchell. But it wasn’t just Brunson’s play that catapulted the Knicks to a hot 3-1 start.

While Brunson’s leadership is undoubtedly the biggest difference-maker, the Knicks’ depth proves to be their trump card.

Different players from the Knicks bench have stepped up and played pivotal roles in their first four games.

In their tough overtime loss in Memphis, Isaiah Hartenstein (16 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists) held the fort for Mitchell Robinson, who was saddled with foul trouble. Then Cam Reddish (22 points, 5 rebounds) exploded in the second half and overtime and nearly won the game himself.

Against the Detroit Pistons, Derrick Rose (13 points, 6 assists) sparked the Knicks’ breakaway in the first half. Then Immanuel Quickley (20 points, 7 assists) finished what Rose had started.

They foiled Paolo Banchero’s Garden debut with Obi Toppin (10 points and a no-look, behind-the-back bounce pass to RJ Barrett) and Quickley (8 assists, 6 rebounds) coming off the bench to make an impact. Despite going scoreless, Quickley closed out the game with the starters.

In their overtime win over the pesky Charlotte Hornets, it was Rose (12 points, 2 assists in 12 minutes) and Reddish, whose length and defense came in handy down the stretch.

“Each night will be different. …We finished with [Quickley] the other night, finish with Cam (Reddish) [Wednesday night], and so it could be someone different every night. I love our depth.”

Tom Thibodeau via Knicks

Through four games, their bench ranks second in rebounds (22.8), third in offensive rating (65.4) and assists (10.3), fourth in scoring (45 points per game), and most importantly, fifth in net rating (5.4).

Their bench is expected to get another boost when Quentin Grimes (sore left foot) returns. And they also have Miles McBride and Jericho Sims waiting in the wings in case of more injuries.

“Deuce McBride and Jericho sims are deserving also. It’s [just] you can’t play 12 [guys] and 10 [player rotation] has worked well. So we’ll continue on that way. You’re going to have injuries. You’ll have different things along the way. So those guys are key components to the team. Everyone is over the course of the season. You’re going to use everyone.”

Tom Thibodeau via Knicks

Leon Rose and the Knicks’ front office were criticized for holding back in the nixed Donovan Mitchell deal as they reportedly valued their depth. Time will tell if they made the right decision, but the early results are encouraging.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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