First Half Report Cards: Grading Every Knicks Bench Player at the All-Star Break

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistFebruary 23, 2012

First Half Report Cards: Grading Every Knicks Bench Player at the All-Star Break

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    The first half of the season is in the books for the New York Knicks. Heading into their last game before the All-Star break against the Miami Heat, it's a great time for reflection.

    Thus far, the Knicks season has had a bit of everything. Pessimism has run rampant, unlikely heroes have emerged, injuries have come in bunches and New York has been a threat to both win or lose on any given night.

    Exhausted? So are the players and coaching staff, which has caused Mike D'Antoni to open up his rotation more than he ever before.

    The Knicks bench has helped keep the organization afloat on a number of occasions, but has also crucified it on others.

    Consequently, certain role players have emerged as saviors, while others have had little to no positive impact. 

Jerome Jordan

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    Grade: C

    It's hard to put any concrete concepts together on what exactly Jerome Jordan brings to the table aside from size.

    Jordan has seen limited minutes in garbage time this season and has validated what most already knew: He's still incredibly raw.

    The seven-foot center had success rebounding and blocking shots while in the D-League, but it hasn't translated into guaranteed production at this level. And on the rare occasion he has graced the court, his footwork has shown it needs to be overhauled, and he must become more of a low-post scoring threat.

    Before the Tyson Chandler era began, many were clamoring for the 25-year-old to get his chance, but the acquisition of a star-caliber center put such musings to bed. An increase in the roster's depth has only buried him deeper down the bench. 

    Biggest Concern Moving Forward: Can the Knicks provide the patience and minutes necessary to develop Jordan's neophyte-like skill set?

Josh Harrellson

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    Grade: B

    Josh Harrellson wasn't supposed to break the rotation, but just like Landry Fields, the second-round draft pick made a case for himself that the Knicks coaching staff could not ignore.

    Harrellson was knocking down threes when no one else was, an affinity that had him playing ahead of the long-range connoisseur that is Steve Novak, prior to going down with a wrist injury.

    While the 6'10" power forward doesn't have a penchant for exhibiting athleticism, he operates efficiently on sheer will alone. He is a dedicated defender and moves fantastically without the ball on offense.

    Should Harrellson be able to shape up physically over the next year or two, he could develop into a solid low-post scorer as well, giving the Knicks the stretch 4 they will so desperately crave once Amar'e Stoudemire officially begins his decline.

    Biggest Concern Moving Forward: Can Harrellson get himself in better game shape and regain his shooting touch in time to re-crack the rotation after being shelved for so long?  

Toney Douglas

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    Grade: D-

    Toney Douglas began the season as the Knicks' starting point guard, but he is now the last one off the bench.

    In Mike D'Antoni's system, Douglas has always been more of an undersized 2, as he is a better transition shooter than facilitator. Should New York ever revert back to a half-court scheme, he would be a solid choice to run point.

    That's the not main problem, though. New York knew it was asking a lot of Douglas to be a player he wasn't this season, but his inability to remain the player he has always been initiated his downfall.

    Douglas, normally a lights-out three-point shooter, was hitting on only 23.5 percent of his attempts and a mere 31.8 percent overall. Even his defense lacked the tenacity the Big Apple had become used to.

    And when even your safety net of skills disappears, you have little or nothing to offer.

    Biggest Concern Moving Forward: Can he recover his lost confidence? And if so, is there even a spot on this team for him anymore?

Bill Walker

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    Grade: C+

    When Bill Walker is on, he's on, but when he's off, he's absolutely awful.

    Walker is shooting an inconsistent 32.1 percent from beyond the arc and has been unable to crack 40 percent from the field overall. He has tightened up his defense, but loosened up his ball control on offense, emerging as one of the Knicks' most turnover-prone players.

    While Walker hasn't been one of the many X-factors injected into New York's lineup, he has a handful of high-scoring games to his name this season. When he takes high-percentage shots, he gets into an almost unbreakable rhythm.

    The Knicks can only hope that Walker ceases trying to do too much with the ball in his hands throughout the second half of the season. He must play to his strong suit as a spot-up shooter.

    Biggest Concern Moving Forward: Will he be able to establish an offensive flow in decreased playing time alongside a healthy Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith?

Mike Bibby

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    Grade: C

    Mike Bibby was brought in over the offseason with the expectation that he would contend for the Knicks' starting point guard slot, yet if it wasn't for Toney Douglas' fall from grace, Bibby wouldn't even be cracking the rotation.

    The 33-year-old Bibby has proven to have less than an adequate amount of gas left in the tank. His legs are not giving him the lift he used to have on his jump shot, and his court vision has reached an all-time low.

    Bibby's veteran leadership in the locker room, especially with the emergence of Jeremy Lin, is invaluable and one of the reasons he wasn't cut to make room for J.R. Smith, but in terms of on-the-court impact, he has very little.

    Biggest Concern Moving Forward: Can Bibby at least regain his prowess from beyond the arc? 

Baron Davis

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    Grade: B-

    After only two games of action, it's premature to draw a conclusion from what Baron Davis has shown us. That being said, he is moving fairly well and conditioning does not seem to be an issue.

    The Knicks organization anxiously awaited Davis' return prior to the emergence of Linsanity, but even amidst the Jeremy Lin hype, the depth he adds to the point guard position has been highly anticipated.

    New York also has the luxury of a motivated Davis. In 13 seasons of action, the point guard has never went beyond the second round of the playoffs. As his career winds down, it's clear postseason success is a priority.

    Davis is certainly not the All-Star he once was, but his incentive to perform has never been higher.

    Biggest Concern Moving Forward: Can he stay healthy long enough to develop chemistry with his teammates?

Steve Novak

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    Grade: B+

    The success of the Knicks is directly related to Steve Novak getting his due in offensive touches.

    New York is 6-0 when Novak scores 14 or more points. His three-point prowess puts quick points on the board and helps spread the defense and create opportunities for Jeremy Lin to get into the paint.

    Speaking of three-point prowess, Novak is hitting over 43 percent of his attempts from behind the rainbow, an incredible number. He has proven he's not afraid to take the pressure shot, while also proving he can drain the pressure shot as well.

    At the beginning of the season, Novak's defensive deficiencies left him buried on the bench, but now, he's one of the first ones out of his seat.

    Biggest Concern Moving Forward: Will he continue to score at a volume that overshadows his lack of discipline on the defensive end?

Iman Shumpert

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    Grade: B

    When David Stern called out Iman Shumpert's name at this past summer's NBA Draft, Knicks fans booed as if Reggie Miller was making a comeback. Ironically, that's the last time they exhibited any ill will toward Shumpert.

    Shumpert is fifth in the entire league in steals at two per game. He is relentless on that side of the ball and has developed a knack for forcing turnovers in crunch time.

    In fact, when defending one-on-one, Shumpert comes up with the steal 25 percent of the time. That is absolutely mind-blowing.

    New York's rookie is no one-trick pony, though. He is explosive on the offensive end when he gets to the rim and his jump shot has drastically improved since Christmas Day.

    Sometimes, Shumpert must be put on a leash, as he takes too many chances, but those instances have are becoming a rarity with each passing game.

    Biggest Concern Moving Forward: Will Shumpert, like Landry Fields last season, hit the rookie wall down the stretch when it matters most?

J.R. Smith

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    Grade: B

    If it wasn't for the fact that J.R. Smith has yet to practice with his new team, his grade would be much lower.

    Smith is shooting a less-than-warm 33 percent from the field, including an abysmal 21.4 percent from downtown and taking a number of questionable shots to say the least. That said, he's only played in three games with the Knicks. 

    Once he gets his NBA legs back, he will wreak havoc for opposing defenses from the outside, but for now, Smith's stat lines aren't flattering.

    That hasn't prevented him from making a positive impact, though, as he has injected a more potent dosage of energy into New York's rotation. In only a short time, Smith has made up for a lull in statistics by providing some much-needed intangibles.

    Biggest Concern Moving Forward: Can Smith show some restraint on the offensive end when leading the charge for the Knicks' second unit?

Jared Jeffries

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    Grade: A-

    As much as some Knicks fans hate to admit it, Jared Jeffries has been the team's most efficient player off the bench.

    Jeffries will rarely put a lot of points on the board, but he is a defensive guru, willing to sacrifice his physical well-being on any given play for the sake of the team.

    The power forward draws charges, blocks shots, grabs rebounds, forces turnovers, shuts down the opposition in transition and dives after every loose ball. Jeffries has even become more aggressive on the offensive end, though his perpetual mistakes at the rim are tough to stomach.

    Jeffries plays with fire, grinding out each and every play. While that will never make him a superstar, make no mistake, the Knicks would not have gone on this recent run and gotten back to .500, without him.

    Biggest Concern Moving Forward: How much more physical sacrifice can his 30-year-old body withstand?