When the Knicks first signed Mindaugas Kuzminskas I texted a friend with intimate knowledge of the Euro League for some thoughts.
"Best player on his team and doesn't start."
That was the text I received and that's all I really needed to know at that point.
Fast forward to the Olympics and the eye test spoke volumes about his game. He's going to come in the game make the right plays, check a ton of boxes and most importantly he can score.
The Knicks are plus-22 in the 10 minutes they've played the Jennings/Vujacic/Kuzminskas perimeter trio.- Kevin Pelton (@kpelton) November 10, 2016
Kuzminskas is not a 30 plus minutes per game guy, and the reality is that his performances up until last night were in garbage time, but I have always felt he is a player who has a rotation spot in the NBA. He never stops moving and he's willing to keep plays alive with tips and offensive rebounds, something that the Knicks have been awful at to start the season. The Knicks are 20th in offensive rebounding rate, and in his 40 total minutes spanning over 4 games, he's pulled down 4 offensive rebounds and knocked down 4 three pointers.
Bench players are there to add strengths where teams are weak and the Knicks carrying heavy minutes simply have not been extra-effort players. The hustle stats aren't there and in Kuzminskas the Knicks have a player whose motor doesn't stop running.
After checking into the game last night with Willy Hernangomez, all Kuzminskas did was put up a +23 in his 17 minutes and help the Knicks post 38 points in the quarter, something that is becoming common place after watching his preseason performances.
Speaking of preseason, two of Kuzminskas' best performances came at the expense of the Boston Celtics, who the Knicks face tomorrow in Bean Town. In two games, that totaled a combined 36 minutes, Kuzminskas was 10-23 from the field including 4-10 from three totaling 26 points and 10 rebounds to go along with 4 assists and 2 steals.
Seems like it would be a good idea to get him in the lineup tomorrow night, which may be the reason Coach Jeff Hornacek called his number last night.