J.R. Smith or Amar'e Stoudemire, Who's the NY Knicks' Most Critical Bench Piece?

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterFebruary 7, 2013

January 5, 2013; Orlando FL, USA; New York Knicks power forward Amar'e Stoudemire (1), small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) and shooting guard J.R. Smith (8) high five against the Orlando Magic during the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With the way the New York Knicks' rotation has played out, this team has an advantage that no other can match.

The Knicks have a bench made of rich mahogany, while a team like the Heat have a bench carved from a crusty old log. J.R. Smith and Amar'e Stoudemire make up the most deadly scoring reserve duo in the league and present all sorts of problems for opposing second lines.

When most teams' stars take their breaks at the end of the first quarter, the Knicks' stars are just coming into the game.

So who's more important, J.R. Smith or Amar'e Stoudemire? 

While they both need to be on point for the Knicks to emerge from the East, only one of them has tools that can't be duplicated on the roster.

When Amar'e Stoudemire is grooving, he gives the Knicks a completely new dimension on offense they can't find anywhere else in the lineup.

If J.R. Smith's perimeter game isn't working, they at least have other options. Raymond Felton is capable of heating up and scoring points in bunches from outside, while Jason Kidd, Steve Novak and Iman Shumpert are all threatening shot-makers as well.

Not to mention that Carmelo Anthony dude.

For the Knicks to be successful in the long-run, Amar'e Stoudemire has to reestablish himself as the beast who once ruled the West. Though the Knicks can get hot from three and sink a team with the long-ball, it's not a high-percentage style of offense, and one unlikely to last four rounds against championship-caliber teams.

There's no doubt Amar'e's post game has improved after working with Hakeem Olajuwon over the summer. He's been shaking down low like a Hula dancer on a dashboard.

The Knicks can't get post-scoring from Tyson Chandler or any other of the three wise men (Kurt Thomas, Rasheed Wallace, Marcus Camby). The points in the paint that Amar'e can generate will take tons of the pressure off Melo in the half court.

When Amar'e Stoudemire is drawing double-teams in the post, the Knicks become an extremely tough team to beat.

J.R. Smith is what he is—a heat-check guard who can win you a game and then shoot 3-of-14 the following night. And there's nothing wrong with that, but to expect him to suddenly turn into a high-percentage player is simply unrealistic.

Smith is guaranteed to have a playoff series where he just can't find the range. But as long as he isn't shooting the Knicks out of games, he doesn't have to score 20 points a night.

When the Knicks eventually play the Chicago Bulls or the Miami Heat, they'll need Amar'e Stoudemire's interior presence to maintain a balanced offensive attack. 

He's been pleasantly awesome since returning from knee surgery and hasn't seemed to have lost any power or aggression. 

The Knicks gave him nearly $100 for a reason in 2010. He's one of the toughest defensive assignments in all of basketball when healthy. Just ask the Sacramento Kings who allowed him to shoot 10-of-10 from the floor just the other night. 

New York ultimately needs both Amar'e and J.R., but the original No. 2 scoring option is the more valuable reserve.