NY Knicks: 3 Biggest Early Season Surprises
They've done it with a mixture of tremendous offensive teamwork, and noticeable defensive intensity. It's clear that head coach Mike Woodson has created an entirely new culture at Madison Square Garden, and everything is looking pretty good right now in the Big Apple.
It's not just the usual players that are shining this season on the court though. Everybody has been making some kind of legitimate impact on this team, proving even more just how well built this Knicks team actually is.
But personally, I think there are three players that have completely outperformed our expectations, and in doing so, they have made the Knicks better and deeper in every sense of the word.
Here are my early season surprises for the New York Knickerbockers, and what they contribute to this team.
Honorable Mention: Rasheed Wallace
It was hard for me to keep Sheed off of this slideshow entirely after what he's already become to millions of Knicks fans across the country.
Yes, he's not in terrific basketball shape yet. Yes, his timing is still a bit off on his shooting; and yes, that bald spot on the top of his head looks absolutely ridiculous.
But Sheed has become a novelty act that gets Knicks fans on their feet every time he enters the game. At this rate, Sheed is on pace to becoming one of the biggest fan favorites of all time.
Not to mention, he's actually playing pretty well for a guy who just came out of retirement and is deserving of some quality minutes. What he provides to this team though is somewhat hard to explain, yet very important in the grand scheme of things.
Sheed is a guy that every Knicks fan can rally around, plain and simple.
It's only a matter of time before someone makes a fake Wikipedia page about how awesome he is. Anybody with a heart and a love for basketball just can't help but smile and cheer when Sheed steps out onto that court.
Maybe I can't relate that well to Sheed, but he's still quickly turning into the glue that holds this Knicks team together.
What he provides: Scalabrine Syndrome
3. J.R. Smith
So far, J.R. hasn't just exceeded my expectations, he has completely and utterly blown them out of the water.
When this Knicks team first started to come together, I truly felt J.R. would end up being the weak link.
I thought he just didn't fit. Maybe because he's always had a shoot first type of attitude, or because he's known to be a bit of a troublemaker off the court. I also was a bit worried that he felt a little jaded and disappointed when he wasn't named a starter.
Well, after three games in, J.R. Smith has quickly become quite possibly the best offensive weapon coming off of any bench, on any team. His Achilles looks fine, and so does his ego.
It's clear that J.R. thrives best when he's coming off the bench. His 6'6 frame and his ball handling ability has always been difficult to cover, but when he's in the zone like he has been so far this season, it's damn near impossible to stop him.
After New York's latest victory in Philly, Smith is averaging 16 PPG.
It's not just the scoring that's impressive. He's also pulling 6.3 RPG, and dishing out 4.3 APG, which is nearly double of what his average was last year.
I think it helps too that Woodson is apparently a little bit harder on J.R. than most of his other guys, which is something that Smith may have been missing over the years.
Based on his past transgressions, Smith is a guy who should benefit from a little tough love. It will keep him grounded, and Woodson clearly realizes that an athletically gifted talent like Smith shouldn't go to waste under any circumstances.
As of right now, Smith has become way more than just a point scorer, he's become an all out WMD with the ball in his hand.
His hot start probably will start to simmer after a while, but as long as he continues to play with this kind of intensity, the Knicks won't be able to complain about their 6th man.
What He Provides: Instant Offense off of the bench.
2. Pablo Prigioni
At 35-years-old, it seems like Prigioni has found new life in NYC.
There's no doubt that the veteran point guard from overseas has quickly adapted to the NBA style of play, while continuing to do what he does best on the court.
His crisp passes aren't the only thing that's quickly making Prigioni a fan favorite. He's also performed well on defense, has had some unexpected success shooting the ball, and is in absolutely incredible basketball shape for a 35-year-old rookie.
At this rate, I see no reason why Prigioni would start slow down at any point this season, even at his age. He's become yet another terrific spark off of the bench with potential starter qualities.
The European game is pretty different from the above-the-rim style of play in the NBA, but Prigioni has shown that his Euroball skills can fit in quite nicely in the states.
The Knicks haven't lost a beat when he comes into the game, and defenders are still somewhat trying to figure out how to shut him down.
No matter what happens this season, it's got to be a sigh of relief for Knicks fans that their team has a legitimate point guard option coming off the bench.
What He Provides: Another true option at point guard, a nice offensive change-up off the bench
1. Ronnie Brewer
The season is still barely off the ground, but Ronnie Brewer has quickly jumped out front as quite possibly the biggest free agent steal this year and the x-factor of this New York Knicks squad.
Even Melo couldn't deny that Brewer was "the biggest under-the-radar pickup" during media day. After what Brewer has shown so far this season though, it might be safe to say that he's on just about everybody's radar now.
Even though Brewer is still trying to get back into the swing of things after a knee injury in the offseason, what we've seen so far from him is nothing short of spectacular.
Anybody who's watched Brewer play over his six-year career should already be aware of his stellar perimeter defense; and he's picked up right where he left off in that category.
Brewer's also finding ways to score (9.7 PPG) and crash the boards (6.7 RPG) consistently, which is a very pleasant surprise.
What's most impressive so far though, is how well he's actually shooting the ball. Usually pitiful from downtown (25% for his career), Brewer has started off this season 5-for-9 from behind the arc.
If you're a Knicks fan, you have to be extremely happy with what Brewer's been showing you so far on both sides of floor.
It's even more important now that 2nd year man Iman Shumpert has seemed to have suffered a set back and now is expected to be out until January after tearing his ACL last season.
For now, Brewer is filling that starter role quite nicely, and has quickly become an extremely important piece to the Knicks team. At this rate, it's going to be extremely hard to sit him for too long once Shumpert actually returns.
What he provides: Excellent perimeter defense, and crucial intangibles
In general, every single player on this Knicks team has earned their spot so far this season.
At this rate, New York is definitely in for a very exciting and successful couple of months.
Can this team keep it up? We'll just have to wait and see, but if every player keeps contributing like this–I see big things in this team's future.
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