With training camp one week away, we're examining the burning questions facing the New York Knicks.
Today's question: Who's the most important bench player?
This question is a little difficult to answer considering we don't know who Derek Fisher will start yet.
New York Knicks
If Smith were to come off the bench, he obviously would be the most important bench player. If Fisher wanted to bring Shumpert off the bench while starting Smith, then Shump would be the vital bench player who would have to provide critical defense and outside shooting.
My guess is that Fisher will start Shumpert and Smith at shooting guard and small forward to go with Jose Calderon, Carmelo Anthony and Samuel Dalembert. So operating under that assumption, my vote for most important bench player is Amar'e Stoudemire.
The reason? If Stoudemire can stay healthy, he gives the Knicks another dimension -- a big man who can score, rebound and block shots -- with All-Star experience. Yes, he may not be the same player he once was due to age and health. But entering his final season under contract, Stoudemire will be even more motivated than he already is, and that is saying quite a bit.
Last season, Stoudemire averaged 11.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 55.7 percent shooting in 22.6 minutes a game. He played in 65 games; it's unclear how many games he can play this season for Fisher.
The Knicks will have to monitor Stoudemire's health and keep him fresh if they can make the playoffs. But Stoudemire showed glimpses of what he can do when feeling good last season. In 14 games during March, Stoudemire averaged 16.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, 56.9 percent shooting and 28.4 minutes.
While we don't expect Stoudemire to have those kind of numbers for this entire season, the Knicks can use a big man who can provide scoring punch to help Anthony. There will certainly be challenges ahead for Stoudemire. Besides trying to keep his knees healthy, he has to adapt his game to the triangle. Can he and will the Knicks allow him to play in back-to-backs?
But when feeling good, Stoudemire clearly gives the Knicks something they don't have much of, and that is a big man who can score in double figures -- sometimes with ease.
Fisher will have several key bench players, like Hardaway Jr., who will be looking to take another step forward and provide a spark with his outside shooting. Andrea Bargnani, who is also in a contract year, will give the Knicks some scoring if he can stay healthy.
Jason Smith might be a solid fit in the triangle with his ability to knock down the midrange jumper. Cleanthony Early could provide the Knicks with length and athleticism if he can earn Fisher's trust as a rookie.
Quincy Acy and Travis Outlaw provide Fisher with two veteran forwards. Pablo Prigioni will give Fisher a savvy point guard who can shoot. And Shane Larkin could be a wild card if the Knicks can tap his first-round potential.
But a healthy Stoudemire can add a different dimension off the bench -- a former All-Star scoring big man who is highly motivated in a contract season.
Question: Who do you think is the Knicks' most important player coming off the bench?