In December of the 2010 season, Donnie Walsh reached back into his past and summoned Jonathan Bender. In 1999, Walsh drafted a teenage Bender for the Pacers with the 5th overall pick. Bender is the only player of the first 10 selected that failed to amass 20,000 minutes played in the NBA. Bender failed to live up to his NBA expectations due to injuries not lack of talent. He managed only one season with more than 60 games played, and retired at the tender age of 25.
Away from the league for 4 years and joining the team mid-year, Bender was used sparingly by D’Antoni until the season neared to a close. On March 19th, the forward started his first game for the Knicks in what was likely going to be the first of many. Ironically injuries derailed his career yet again, as Bender broke a finger and was done for the year.
On the court, the 6-11 Bender can stretch the defense with three point shooting, but despite his height he struggles with the ball close to the hoop. He doesn’t score a lot (14.5 pts/36) and has mediocre efficiency (52.9% TS%) Bender’s turnover rate is alarmingly high (3.5 to/36), and he’s especially prone when he puts the ball on the floor. On defense his shot blocking was impressive (2.1 blk/36), but his rebounding is lacking (6.4 reb/36).
The big question with Bender will always be his health. Even though the finger injury is more of a fluke injury, he had problems with his hip & leg earlier in the year. It’s not known if he can take the daily pounding of the rigors of the NBA season, even as a reserve. Additionally it’s hard to gauge exactly what kind of player Bender is. He had only one season with more than 1000 minutes and that was in 2002 as a 21 year old. Bender managed a miniscule 292 minutes played as a Knick in 2010. Still if the Knicks want to roll the dice on him, Bender could be a cheap option for a 8th/9th man. In D’Antoni’s smallish lineups, he could function as a center, paired with stronger rebounders.
Report Card (5 point scale):
Final Grade: B
Again not a lot of very comparable players; most are 3 standard deviations away. “He Who Shall Not Be Named” appears, as well as some poor rebounding centers.