New Yorks Knicks 2012: Mid-Year Report
With so much hoopla over the Knicks' last three big-money acquisitions, who would have thought that the key ingredient would come in the form of an undrafted point guard from Harvard University? To make matters more interesting, the Knicks are paying Jeremy Lin a bare minimum and he then goes out and is up atop the all-time rookie record for points scored in a player's first 10 career starts.
Lucky for Coach D'Antoni that Lin's success came in the nick of time as his job was sure to be in jeopardy after such a horrid start. What's worse is that the local media was turning on Knicks star Carmelo Anthony and all the skills he was bringing to the table while they were losing. In essence, Carmelo was suddenly doing too much while they lost.
They must have forgotten how Carmelo played for Syracuse in the NCAA and in the Olympics when he was not the focal point of the offense and had to use his passing abilities to play a more team-oriented game. Most people should know that without an true orchestrator, the band cannot play good music.
Recently, Jim Boeheim and Steven Smith (said on ESPN)—amongst others—agreed that the claim Carmelo would struggle with Lin upon his Anthony's return was ridiculous. Carmelo said he can play with anybody.
While the Knicks have improved on the defensive end and moved up to the middle of the pack in the league's rankings, their once-potent offense has taken a hit and fallen down to the middle of the pack amongst those same teams. Their recent surge in offense offers hope that as the team they seem to be gelling a bit and scoring with more proficiency.
Let's look into how each player on the Knicks roster has fared so for this year and the grade they have received during the process.
The Guards: Linsanity Is in the Air
The undrafted guard has become the new Cinderella story in the NBA. In Anthony and Stoudamire's absence, Lin has almost single-handedly carried the team, pouring in almost 25 points, nine assists and four rebounds a game in his February starts. The true question is, can he continue his play or will his game revert back to his first year's? He must cut down his turnovers a bit but for what he is giving the team, it's all good.
Another player on the Knicks who has seen his game go up and down all season. With the injuries to Amare and Carmelo, Field's game suddenly clicked and all the positive attributes they saw in him last year are resurfacing. His double doubles have increased and so has his confidence.
The rookie's shot selection can make you wonder about his game, yet he always plays with such great effort that one overlooks these types of things. He has gotten extensive playing time at times this year, due to his defensive prowess. He consistently attacks the basket and his 85 percent shooting percentage from the line helps his cause. He will be one of the leaders in steals for years to come. When his game becomes more consistent, watch out.
After a fast start, Douglas has seen his minutes and play dip dramatically. Some will wonder if a lingering shoulder injury has affected his play. The fact is that Douglas isn't the right type of guard to run D'Antoni's system. He makes too many poor decisions on offense as the point, and is truly an undersized 2 guard. As a backup, his defense is formidable and his shooting range is sufficient out to three-point range. He will end up getting buried on the bench due to Lin's great play of late and Baron Davis' return.
Bibby has looked decent at times at the point, but really has struggled to put the ball in the basket when asked to. With the addition of J.R. Smith and Baron Davis, he'll be relegated to 10th to 12th man most likely.
Walker has shown flashes of his old athletic self and a somewhat consistent three-point shot. He just doesn't seem to be able to put a long string of solid games together, so his playing time will fluctuate as it has all season long. Walker will provide his team with nice depth as the second half goes along.
Davis has shown exactly why the Knicks acquired his with his great creativity and ability to break down the defense. Still, he seems to be in rehab mode as he struggles to finish on some of his moves, but you can see his game progressing over his three games of service regardless of the turnovers.
Straight from his return from China where he averaged around 35 points a game, Smith is playing with great passion. His play on both ends has been admirable and with Shumpert on the mend, Smith has been called upon to get it done on defense as his five steals in his most recent game showed. His return to his hometown area seems to have lit a fire under him to show his critics that he is focused on playing quality hoops.
Forwards: The Saga of the Two Big Guns
Having his lowest output since his second year in the league, Anthony is being made into a scapegoat for the Knicks' lack of success since arriving in exchange for half of last year's roster. He does have a tendency to play isolation ball, but no one can question his desire to win or his effort. Anthony is averaging over four assists per game—a career high—and he will have to play a better all-around game on both ends for the Knicks to stay on path with its winning ways. He is still one of the best fourth-quarter scorers and game closers in all of the NBA.
The shortened season has seemed to not allow Stoudemire's body to fully recover as his lift is just not there. He has shown flashes of his old self and is still one of the best pick-and-roll players in the NBA. He will not put up the big numbers and doesn't really have to on this now-talented team. He just needs to be a warrior on-and-off the court as he has shown he can do, and play more disciplined defense for the Knicks to go far into the playoffs.
Other than Tyson Chandler, Jeffries is the glue to the Knicks defense. Jeffries can defend four positions and is willing to give up his body at all costs. He will never wow you with his play at the offensive end, but that is not why he was brought back this year. At 6'10", he must do a better job at finishing around the basket. Even the garden faithful are starting to finally appreciate his game and the effort he brings on the court.
Another man's garbage is another man's gold, and the way Novak has been shooting of late shows this is no fool's gold for the Knicks. When they signed him, they knew what they were getting in the one-dimensional Novak. He has not disappointed as he has been locked and loaded, ready to shoot upon his spot duty.
The Knicks opened up the checkbook for their new seven-footer and it has paid immediate dividends, as the team is now one of the better defensive teams in the NBA. Chandler is the Knicks' automatic double-double machine as well as a solid free-throw shooter for a big man. The defensive anchor has given the Knicks stability on the court and in the locker room. Chandler has become the consummate teammate and will be one of the main reasons if the Knicks achieve playoff success.
Limited minutes have not allowed him to show the Knicks his growth, but he has shown flashes of being a solid sub in the future with his ability to play over the rim and block shots. He does have a long way to go, though.
Harrellson has shown the Knicks that he will be a steal as a second-round pick because of his ability to defend and hit open shots out to three-point range. Health has been a issue, so it's difficult to analyze his accomplishments on the court. I guess we shall see what Harrellson brings in the long run.
Second Half Outlook: It's Looking Brighter
With All-Star weekend looming, Coach D'Antoni and his troops will finally have a few practices to gel and find out what combinations might work best with one another on the court. The lack of practices have hurt the Knicks as well as many other teams this year, so the time working together should bode well for them.
With the additions of guards Davis and Smith, the Knicks have now become one of the deeper teams in the league. These two can be starters on plenty of teams, but can make their new team quite dangerous come playoff time. If they can figure out and flourish in their new roles, the Knicks can make a major second-half push. With 17 games in 28 days after the break, the depth will be much needed.
Coach D'Antoni has a great problem on his hands now and that is to figure out what to do with all of his new weapons. As of late, he has done of solid job of surrounding his shooters with the team's better defenders. The team has also been doing a better job of moving the ball around and playing true team basketball.
On the defensive end, the team is surely buying into Coach Woodson's defensive philosophy as the team is up amongst the top defensive teams this year. At this rate, the Knicks have a great opportunity to move up into the fourth or fifth spot in the Eastern Conference and possibly make a deep run at the playoffs.