Knicks All-Star Break Report Card
With the All-Star Game in the rear-view mirror, and the second-half set to commence shortly, we take a look back at how each player on the New York roster performed over the first three months of the 2012-2013 campaign.
Without further adieu, the Knicks position-by-position report card:
After a terribly disappointing season in Portland last year, Felton was eager to prove he could still play at a high level and entered the 2012-2013 campaign with a huge chip on his shoulder. Felton did, in fact, start off season playing extremely well. The Knicks stormed out of the gates, winning their first five games, and seven of their first eight. Over the Knicks first 18 contests, Felton was averaging a touch under 16 points and 7 assists per contest, while shooting over 43 percent from the floor and 42 percent from three-point territory. However, in early December, Felton suffered a bone bruise on his left hand, which clearly impacted his accuracy and offensive efficiency. Over the following 10 games, beginning December 6th, up until he broke his pinkie on Christmas Day, Felton shot just 34.3 percent from the field and a woeful 16.7 percent from behind-the-arc.
Without Ray in the lineup, the Knicks struggled to find consistency on the offensive end. Once Felton returned, New York ran off another winning streak (six straight)… Taken as a whole, Felton has certainly been a net positive. He shots too frequently on occasion, and his defense has been disappointing at times. However, he has quarterbacked the Knicks to the second best record in the conference and deserves credit for providing stability at the PG position, which NY had not had since Felton himself ran the point back in 2010.
Kidd has slumped mightily of late – he hasn’t made more than two FG’s in a game since January 24th, and is shooting below 24% from the floor and 20% from behind the arc in that nine-game stretch. Conversely, Kidd shot 50.9% from the floor and 48.9% three-point territory in November, while posting one of the league’s best assist-to-turnover ratios.
Looking at the big picture, Kidd’s overall numbers on the season are probably right around where most pundits would have predicted coming into the season. The key for the Knicks will be to keep Kidd fresh for the postseason, by resting him as much as possible over the next three months. At this stage of his career, Kidd can’t be expected to shine brightly on a nightly basis. New York just has to hope his candle flickers at the right times – i.e. down the stretch of big games in April and May…
Knicks fans can not ask for much more than Melo has given them thus far this season. The fact that he is even in the MVP conversation (albeit far behind front-runners LeBron James and Kevin Durant) speaks to the elite level he has performed at. Anthony is averaging 28.9 ppg, second only to Durant. Melo has a legit shot to become just the second Knick in franchise history to lead the league in scoring. From mid-November through early February, Melo scored at least 20 points in 31 straight contests, setting a franchise record.
A primary reason for the increase in scoring has been his additional attempts and improved accuracy from behind-the-arc. Coming into this season, Carmelo’s career-high in three-pointers made was 69 (back in 2003-2004 – when he shot 32.2% from long range). Melo has already knocked down 118 three-balls, and is shooting 40.5% from three-point territory.
However, we’ve always know he could score. This season, Melo has been a bit more focused on the defensive end as well, and has earned respect by hustling and playing more unselfishly than in years past. Yes, there is room for improvement; but all things considered, Melo had a fantastic first half.
Probably the only reason Chandler’s grade isn’t a straight “A” is due to the fact that he set the bar so high last season, when he became the first Knick to ever win the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award, while also becoming just the second player (other than Wilt Chamberlain) to shoot above 69% for a full season
Nonetheless, Chandler remains invaluable as the anchor of the Knicks defense and one of the games best finishers on the offensive end. Chandler has seen his FG% drip slightly, but still leads the NBA in that category. In addition, he is one of just four players in the league averaging over 11 points and 11 rebounds… While Melo may the “face of the franchise,” Chandler is undoubtedly the heart and soul of this team.
Shump has struggled since returning from ACL surgery. As a player that has always relied on his immense athleticism, it is clear from watching him that he doesn’t fully trust his knee yet. As a result, his confidence is sagging, which reflects directly on his performance. Now that rumors have cropped up with him potentially being traded, it is another obstacle he’ll have to overcome.
Through the 11 games he’s played this season, he is averaging 5.6 points and 3.3 rebounds in 19 minutes. The good news is that he’s shooting 42.9% from three-point land. Obviously a small sample size, but certainly encouraging for the Knicks coaching staff. As arguably the team’s best perimeter defender, the Knicks will need Shump to play well if they hope to advance in the playoffs…
Smith has been forced to shoulder an abundance of responsibility this season. Despite not starting a game, he’s played more total minutes than anyone of the team. With Melo sidelined intermittently with nagging injuries, and Felton missing most of January, J.R. was asked to provide offense night-after-night over these first three months.
He hasn’t always been accurate; he actually shooting well below his career averages in terms of FG and three-point percentage. However, he’s pulling down more than five rebounds per game for the first time in his pro career and also dishing out nearly three assists (tying a career-high). More importantly, Smith has played his best ball when it matter most. Never afraid to take the big shot, J.R. has bailed the Knicks out with clutch jumpers on numerous occasions this season.
After finally earning consistent NBA minutes last year, Novak established himself as one the NBA’s best long-range gunners – leading the league in three-point percentage. He parlayed that success into a four-year, $16 million contract over the summer.
However, Novak has failed to live up to expectations thus far this season. His scoring has actually decreased, despite his playing time going up. (Novak averaged 8.8 ppg in fewer than 19 minutes last season, but is currently scoring below seven points per contest in over 22 minutes this year.) His accuracy has slipped a bit, but he is still among the league-leaders in three-point percentage. As far as the second-half of the season is concerned, Novak needs to be more aggressive but Coach Woodson has to force feed him shots more often as well. Novak’s looks are a key ingredient in New York’s success. The proof is in the pudding: Novak has attempted at least six three-pointers 18 times this season, and the Knicks have won 17 of those 18 games – including 14 straight.
The Knicks scooped up Brewer out of the bargain bin over the summer, after he was cut loose by the Bulls. With Shumpert injured, Brewer was inserted in the starting lineup to start the season, and played relatively well. He is a solid perimeter defender and he rarely turns the ball over, which endeared him to Coach Woodson. Moreover, he shockingly shot over 41% from behind-the-arc in December.
Unfortunately, Brewer’s quickly lost confidence in his shot and managed to make just 15.4% of his three-point attempts in December. Eventually, the Knicks were essentially playing four-on-five on the offensive end when Brewer was on the floor, and Woodson was forced to yank him from the starting lineup. With Shumpert back in action, Brewer has effectively been removed from the rotation entirely (DNP-CD in each of the Knicks last three games).
Trivia question: Who are the only two Knicks to have scored over 28 points in a game this season? Yes, Melo of course is one, but the other Knick is Chris Copeland, which I’m sure very few would have guessed.
Copeland has shown flashes of offensive potency, including the 29 points he poured in against Houston back in December. However, he brings little else to the table. He can be a liability defensively; rebounds poorly given his size and length, and has only dished out a grand total of 10 assists in 32 games.
Given his limited playing time, it’s tough to grade Thomas. He’s started a handful of games, and has played relatively well in spot duty (shooting above 55% from the floor). In addition, Thomas is on the roster as much for what he brings off the floor (veteran leadership and mentoring) as on-the-court contributions
Very little was expected of Prigioni when it was announced the Knicks had signed the 35-year old Argentine to a one-year contract. However, the league’s oldest rookie has ended up playing important minutes, especially when Felton was sidelined.
His numbers are pedestrian, but Pablo has done a solid job facilitating the offense, taking care of the basketball, and being a pesky defender. Ideally, Woodson would only have to use Prigioni sparingly in big games, but Woody knows he can trust Pablo’s steady hand when his name is called.
Camby was viewed as important piece back when the Knicks acquired him via a sign-and-trade this summer. Over the previous three seasons, Camby had led the entire league in rebound rate, and was still a threat to block a few shots a night. New York inked him to a three-year deal with worth over $13 million (far more money than Kidd received).
However, Camby has provided very little bang-for-the-buck. Camby has appeared in just 14 games and is averaging 2.1 points in 10 minutes of action. Nagging injuries and an apparent inability to impress Coach Woodson in practice kept Camby chained to the bench for long stretches early in the season. Then, just when it appeared he’d finally secured a spot in the rotation, he injured the plantar fascia in his left foot, which has sidelined him for the last month.
In contrast to Camby, very little was expected from Rasheed when it was announced the mercurial big man had come out of retirement to join the Knicks. Sheed had been out of the league for two years, and nobody knew if he still had the ability and/or desire to contribute on the NBA level.
As it turned out, he certainly was willing and able to play and perform better than anyone could have guessed. Sheed played important minutes early on and it was clear the impact he had on both ends of the floor, especially as a rim protector/rebounder on defense. Surprisingly, Sheed was contributed significantly to the Knicks18-5 spurt to start the season. Woodson has stated he expected Wallace to return to practice this week, and could see game action soon thereafter.
Much like his performance in the Slam Dunk Contest over All-Star Weekend, White’s first-half production has fallen short. He’s appeared in 34 games, including six as starter, but White has been unable to distinguish himself on either end of the floor. He’s averaging just 1.8 ppg.
When knee surgery knocked Amar’e out for two months at the start of the season, there was definite concern as to what level he’d play at upon his return. Fortunately for the Knicks, Stoudemire has exceeded expectations since returning to the lineup on New Years Day. To his credit, he embraced a role off the bench and has played well in spurts, giving the Knicks a much-needed interior option on offense. Amar’e is one of the few players on the Knicks roster who can finish in traffic at the rim. On the season, he’s averaging 13.6 points and 4.8 rebounds. Most impressive has been STAT’s efficiency; at one point, he’d shot 50% or better from the floor in 13 straight games – which was the second longest such streak in the NBA this season. Defense is still a major issue and he has to prove he can remain healthy, but New York will need Stoudemire’s energy and offense off the bench if they want to make real noise this postseason.