Derrick Rose and Kristaps Porzingis' big nights are sure to garner the most headlines following Sunday's 118-112 win over the Lakers, but Willy Hernangomez and Brandon Jennings were both huge X-factors.
Filling in for an injured Kyle O'Quinn, Hernangomez played his part to perfection and looked like the best third-string center in the league. A rather physical performance, punctuated by 12 rebounds, was reminiscent of his gritty effort against Dwight Howard earlier in the year. Jennings' scoring prowess is undeniable and he has proved to be a much more versatile player this season, which allows him to catch opponents off guard with offensive outbursts. Scoring 15 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter, it was as though Los Angeles had awoken a sleeping giant.
Such performances are proof of just how deep New York really is this season. How many times has the team employed a third-string rookie center who can log double-digit rebounds at the drop of a hat? Jennings' ability to pour in the points gives the Knicks the best offensive option they've had off the bench since J.R. Smith won Sixth Man of the Year back in the 2012-13 season. But the talent doesn't stop there. Now 6-1 during games in which he's grabbed at least seven rebounds, O'Quinn has certainly played a key role. Justin Holiday provides timely buckets and a strong rebounding presence for a reserve guard, complementing Courtney Lee really well. Lance Thomas has rebounded from a slow start to provide steady defense, and his shot is coming back as well.
The list of important contributions goes on. This team is deep. With an ever-so-talented three-headed offensive monster featuring Carmelo Anthony, Porzingis and Rose, New York has been able to create and maintain a balanced attack from the get go.
The bigger and more notable names on this roster may carry more of the burden, but not one player has been caught off guard when his number was called. That includes Mindaguas Kuzminskas, the energizer bunny who is shooting 38 percent from deep this season. He's been just as easily slotted in for key minutes here and there. As Sunday's game proved, however, his absence suggests the Knicks have quite a talented 11th man (who doesn't even need to play) when at full strength. Even the seldom-used Marshall Plumlee has been plugged in and easily depended upon for worthwhile minutes against formidable opponents when necessary.
Joakim Noah has averaged just 22 minutes per game after signing a $72 million contract in the summer. But his contributions (or lack there of) would be a bigger cause for concern if the Knicks weren't so deep all around. The luxury they have to get injections of life from A to Z is taking pressure off key players and making things easier for others. It's truly a testament to how well this roster is built. The Knicks are 11-4 in their last 15 games, which proves all this group needed was time to build up some chemistry and really hone in.
When is the last time New York had such a deep roster? Perhaps the argument can be made that the organization's 2012-13 Atlantic Division-winning squad had as much talent. Still, this year's group is different. The mix of versatile abilities, coupled with a mix of youth and veteran leadership, suggests that the Knicks are built to sustain a strong run well into the spring months and won't fade away as easily.