The guys at the end of an NBA bench were viewed as practice players who never see meaningful minutes in the regular season. That changed last season, when the 14th and 15th men on the New York Knicks' roster, Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak, had breakout seasons. Lin in particular became the biggest story in sports.
NBA training camps begin next week and the Knicks currently have 13 players signed to guaranteed contracts. Teams can invite up to 20 players to training camp, but can only carry a maximum of 15 players on their regular season roster (Some teams choose to carry only 13 or 14.)
That means there will be seven invitees competing for the final spot or two on the Knicks roster. Those that do not make the team will hope to be assigned to the Knicks Developmental League affiliate or catch on with a team overseas.
These are the players on the New York Knicks' roster bubble.
Oscar Bellfield enters training camp as a long shot to make the Knicks roster. The 6'2'' point guard out of UNLV went undrafted in June and the Knicks are already three-deep at his position with Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni.
Bellfield led the Runnin' Rebels to an impressive 24-9 record last season, including a stunning upset over North Carolina in November, but his numbers were underwhelming during his four seasons in Las Vegas. He averaged just 9.8 points and 5.4 assists per game in his senior year.
Bellfield is quick with the ball and a feisty defender. With an impressive showing in training camp, he could earn a spot on the Knicks Developmental League affiliate, the Erie Bayhawks, or a contract overseas.
Chris Copeland played 19 games in the D-League in 2006-2007 after playing college ball at Colorado University. Since then he has bounced around Spain, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. Last season, he averaged 21.8 points and 5.5 rebounds for Aalstar of the Belgian League.
The New Jersey native is coming off an impressive stint with the Knicks Summer League team, where he demonstrated that he can score facing-up or in the post. He was New York's leading scorer, averaging 13.8 points per game.
The knock on Copeland is that at 6'8'', he is undersized for a power forward and does not possess the quickness or range to excel as a 3 in the NBA.
If he continues to score at the same clip he did this summer against greater competition, Copeland could grab the Knicks' final roster spot. At the least, he will probably have an opportunity to play in one of the more competitive European leagues.
The Knicks hope that John Shurna will develop into Steve Novak 2.0. The 6'9'' forward shot 43 percent from downtown in his senior year at Northwestern University, while leading the Big Ten in scoring at 20 points per game.
Like Novak, Shurna is a one-dimensional player and his lack of strength and quickness would make him a defensive liability in the NBA.
He went undrafted this summer and failed to impress in five games with the Atlantic Hawks' Summer League team, scoring 3.8 points per game on 31.6 percent shooting. He did connect on 41.7 percent of his attempts from behind the arc.
The former Wildcat is more likely to be designated to the Knicks D-league affiliate than earn a spot on Coach Woodson's squad.
Henry Sims's production at Georgetown was modest—11.6 points, 6 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.4 blocks per game—though there is plenty to like about the former Hoya.
At 6'10'' and 245 pounds, with a 7'4'' wingspan, he possess the type of frame that NBA scouts look for in young prospects. Sims also works hard on his game and showed steady improvement over his four years at Georgetown.
Still, his offensive moves are fairly raw and he is not exceptional at any facet of the game. The big man averaged 4.3 points per game for the Utah Jazz Summer League team.
The Knicks could use another big body, especially if they do not sign a veteran center or power forward before the season starts, but Sims probably needs more seasoning against better competition before he will be ready to make an NBA roster.
The 6'2" Smith averaged 9.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists in two seasons at Louisville. He helped the Cardinals advance to the NCAA Final Four as a senior last season.
Smith can knock down the three-ball like his brother J.R.—He shot 40 percent from downtown in each of his two seasons at Louisville— but at 6'2'' is too small to play shooting guard in the NBA.
There has been speculation that the Knicks signed Chris Smith as a favor to J.R. and ESPNNewYork.com reported that a source familiar with the situation indicated the Knicks acquired Smith so they could assign his rights to their D-League affiliate.
However, the New York Post's Marc Berman tweeted a few weeks ago:
Source told me G Chris Smith, J.R.'s brother, has good chance of making #Knicks roster because of his defensive potential and Iman's injury.
Mychel Thompson is a 6'6'' shooting who went undrafted in 2011 after averaging 14.6 points per game during his senior season at Pepperdine University.
The son of first overall pick in the 1978 draft, Mychal Thompson, and older brother of Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson, began last season with the Knicks D-League affiliate the Erie Bayhawks, where he struck up a relationship with Knicks assistant general manager Allan Houston.
When the NBA lockout ended, he made the Cleveland Cavaliers' opening roster, but was cut after just five games, in which he averaged 3.6 points and 1.4 assists over 19 minutes per game.
Thompson contributed 5.6 points and 3.4 rebounds over 20 minutes per game for the Knicks Summer League team in Las Vegas this summer and will be competing with Chris Smith, Chris Copeland and John Shurna for the final one or two spots on the Knicks roster.
According to multiple media outlets, including nytimes.com, Rasheed Wallace worked out with the Knicks on Saturday and is considering coming out of retirement.
Wallace last played in the league during the 2009-2010 season for a Boston Celtics team that lost in the NBA Finals. He was out of shape and appeared disinterested for much of the season, while averaging 9.0 points and 4.5 rebounds per game off the bench.
Two years later, he does not have much to offer the Knicks, other than a big body who can fill in at the power forward or center positions in case of an injury. Wallace is familiar with Mike Woodson's system from Woodson's days as an assistant coach with the 2004 NBA Champion Detroit Pistons.
If Rasheed does return, he will make the veteran's minimum and almost certainly receive a guaranteed contract, leaving just one roster spot remaining.
James White had brief stints in the NBA with the San Antonio Spurs in 2006-2007 and Denver Nuggets in 2008-2009 after being drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers in the second round of the 2006 draft. Since then, he has made the rounds on the international basketball carousel.
Last year, he had an excellent season with Scavolini Pesaro of the Italian League, averaging 17.2 points on 52 percent shooting, and was rewarded with a guaranteed one-year contract with the Knicks.
The man known as "Flight" White for his phenomenal leaping ability, is 6'7'' and an excellent wing defender who can cover small forwards and shooting guards. He has a chance to crack the Knicks rotation while Iman Shumpert recovers from knee surgery.