New York Knicks: Most Surprising Players of the Early Season

Thomas AttalCorrespondent INovember 19, 2012

New York Knicks: Most Surprising Players of the Early Season

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    If the game of basketball were played on paper, then you wouldn't ever have to actually play any of the games. Teams would put together the best rosters possible, compare and then declare a winner. That's not how it goes, though.

    In real life, surprises, both good and bad, happen. Sometimes there are injuries, and sometimes there are players outperforming all expectations. Things never go exactly as they are supposed to. That's why you have to play the games.

    For the 2012-13 New York Knicks, the season has largely been one of positive surprises thus far. The team has started 7-1 with five of those wins coming by double digits. Every team New York has played participated in the playoffs last year.

    When things are going that well this early, it means you've got more than one guy justifying the money he makes. Here are those guys for the Knicks.

    Disclaimer: stats in this article are accurate as of 11/18/12.

1. Carmelo Anthony

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    The change Carmelo Anthony has made this season is one that was necessary for the progression of the team to occur, but it is nonetheless an impressive one. Everyone knew the Knicks needed Melo to be more unselfish to succeed, but based on his career thus far, it is surprising how drastically he has made the switch.

    Known as a ball-stopper and lazy defender, Carmelo has been the undisputed leader of the team, and specifically in terms of intensity and unselfishness. Better yet, he's doing it on both ends of the floor. He is now seen diving into stands and onto the floor on defense, and accepting nine points in a win on offense. 

    He has consistently made the extra pass and kicks the ball out enough when driving to the basket that it forces the defender off of him. If Melo continues to lead the team in both attitude and stats, he will be in the MVP talk all year. 

2. J.R. Smith

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    There are few people who doubt the sheer amount of talent J.R. Smith has, but in the past he has also given reason for concern. He has shown a tendency to shoot to much—even if he's cold—and stop the ball for too long.

    However, this season Smith has been absolutely perfect in delivering what New York needs out of him. He has 16.7 points per game to add to his five assists and three rebounds per contest. He is hitting 47 percent of his shots, and an absolutely unreal 63 percent from three-point land.

    He is an early candidate for Sixth Man of the Year due to his timely shots and the amount of energy he brings to the game every time he steps on the court. The success the team has had is greatly due in part to Smith's work with the second unit.

3. Rasheed Wallace

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    OK, does this one really need to be explained? For our friends resurfacing from beneath various stones and rocks, Rasheed Wallace has been awesome this year, and it has come as a big surprise considering he just came out of retirement.

    Sheed's minutes started by coming as a result of clamoring fans, but now it's a significant 13 minutes per night. In that time, he has averaged seven points, three rebounds and a block. He has used his size well inside and shown a variety of efficient post moves. 

    The only part of his game that needs to improve is his 22-percent shooting from downtown, but his vocal leadership evens out that issue to one fantastic bench player. 

4. Jason Kidd

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    Jason Kidd's numbers in and of themselves haven't been mind-blowing, but context and non-calculable factors have made his beginning to the season superb.

    His 8.6 points and three assists aren't huge for a player having started every game, but he has hit some crucial threes and is hitting 56 percent of three-point attempts. Furthermore, he has been an experienced leader of the team, and has been crucial to keeping control of the game's tempo.

    He also has been a leader in terms of making the extra pass and consistently creates space for his teammates by penetrating and kicking the ball back out. 

5. Ronnie Brewer

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    Ronnie Brewer hasn't been the most evident pleasant surprise of this squad, but he has quietly been very effective and shown vast improvement in certain areas.

    His perimeter defense has been exactly what New York needs in the absence of Iman Shumpert, and he has been hitting an absurd 44 percent of his three-point shots despite having an average of 25 percent over the rest of his career. 

    He also has penetrated well enough at the small forward position to give himself space for his shot and to create space for his teammates. Finally, he's averaging five rebounds per game, which is two more than his career average. 

6. Steve Novak

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    To the dismay of Knicks fan, Steve Novak has been the one man not performing up to par this season. The best three-point shooter in the league last season, Novak has hit only 11 of his 27 attempts from behind the arc through eight games. Worse yet, he has hit only seven of his past 24 attempts.

    However, there is still so much time for Novak to get back to what made him an MSG hero last year. He shoots 43 percent from three over his career, and is hitting just 37 percent this year. A massive season-long decline is unlikely, so he will pick it up soon.

    Better yet, he has shown improvement in terms of movement this season, which will lead to many more open shots. He is moving with the ball more, but more importantly he is moving without the ball more in order to create space for his shots. Last season his lack of off-ball motion allowed for man coverage to neutralize him in the playoffs. 

    That, or, he should try doing the discount double check again.