With the first chunk of the season in the books, it's safe to say that the New York Knicks are for real. Their 16-5 record lands them the top spot in the East, and if that doesn't impress you, then their two 20-point wins against the Miami Heat might.
In order to reach this point, nearly every player on the roster has made positive contributions to Mike Woodson's club. Led by MVP candidate Carmelo Anthony, and a few other unsuspecting names, Knicks basketball is the talk of the NBA world once again.
Let's grade each Knickerbocker based on their play thus far in 2012.
All stats are accurate as of Dec. 13.
We're finally seeing the Carmelo Anthony that New York traded for.
Player Grade: A
It's quite simple: This Carmelo Anthony is worth trading four starters for. After all, that's what the Knicks did back in 2011 when acquiring the five-time All-Star.
He's led the Knicks' charge this year with a brand new attitude. 'Melo's dedication to carrying out Mike Woodson's offense, as well as his defense, has made a tremendous impact on the team. As Carmelo goes, so go the Knicks, and Anthony's been going like no other.
He's playing more efficiently than ever, largely in part to his position change. At the power forward, Anthony has utilized the low post on offense. His 25.2 PER is over two points higher than any mark he's put up in his career. His offensive rating of 113 is also a career high.
He's put in the effort on defense and rebounding as well. He's grabbing over six boards a game, throwing his body around the floor and doing all the little things to win.
There's no argument here. 'Melo is the king of New York.
Brewer has brought much more than expected this season.
Player Grade: A-
The Knicks picked Ronnie Brewer off the scrap heap towards the end of the offseason for the veteran's minimum salary. Though he's making just just over $1 million this season, his contributions as a Knick have been invaluable.
He was signed as a stopgap to start at the 2-guard until Iman Shumpert returned from injury. The plan was for Brewer to bring his lockdown defense to the Garden, and he's carried it out and then some.
The career 26.3 percent three-point shooter has knocked down treys at a 36.7 percent clip this year on 49 attempts. He's turned the ball over just seven times all year.
On the other end, Brewer has lived up to the hype. He's averaged 1.3 steals per game and has made countless hustle plays on that end, getting the ball back into the hands of Knicks point guards.
Brewer has been a key part to the Knicks success, and without him the backcourt's defense would be even poorer than it's looked at times this season.
We haven't seen much of Camby this season due to injury.
Player Grade: Incomplete
We've seen very little of Marcus Camby this season due to multiple injuries. Early in camp, he suffered a calf strain that held him out of the whole preseason, crimping his conditioning.
He popped into a few games sporadically early on but looked especially defeated against the Brooklyn Nets last month, when he failed to grab a board over Reggie Evans and Brook Lopez in only a handful of minutes.
Now Camby is missing from the lineup with a sore foot. The team is lacking on the glass through the first month of the season, so Camby's ability to clean up down low would be particularly helpful if he can return to full health fairly soon.
Chandler started off slow, but has picked up the pace as of late.
Player Grade: B+
Chandler started the season a step slow on both ends of the floor, but he seems to be back to full strength now.
The early struggles likely stemmed from a knee injury suffered in the team's final preseason game against Brooklyn. In his first nine games, Chandler averaged nine points and eight rebounds per game and just 0.6 blocks.
Since then he's been a much more active contributor. In his last 12 games, he's logged 33 minutes per, scoring 14.8 points and grabbing 10.9 boards a game while adding a block and shooting an astounding 75 percent from the field.
On the defensive end, he's brought more of a presence down low as of late, and it's paid dividends. The Knicks have allowed 100 points just once since Nov. 25.
Copeland has been exiled to garbage minutes so far this year.
Player Grade: C+
Chris Copeland put on a clinic during the preseason to make this Knicks team. Unfortunately for the 28-year-old rookie, however, he hasn't seen any significant minutes since the exhibition season.
He went the first month of the year without playing double-digit minutes in a game until he finally played 10 minutes against the Milwaukee Bucks on Nov. 28. Mike Woodson has experimented with playing Cope a bit in first halves of games recently, but it hasn't resulted in much production.
He brings a raw but talented offensive skill set to the table, but it's his defensive struggles that have slowed his progression throughout his career.
Felton has stepped up his game dramatically this season.
Player Grade: B+
Once you finally eliminate all "Jeremy Lin versus Raymond Felton" arguments from your mind—because they are completely irrelevant—you'll realize that Felton has played tremendous ball for the Knicks this season.
He worked to get into top shape this season, and he's put on some performances to remember. His 27-point, seven-assist game in Miami on 10-of-20 shooting was a great display of the point guard's improved skills.
With the good comes some equally poor performances, as with most NBA players. He put on the worst performance by any Knick this season in Brooklyn, when the point guard shot a terrible 3-of-19, almost single-handedly losing the game for New York.
However, Felton's pros have greatly outweighed his cons thus far. His ability to penetrate, as well as moving the ball to find the open Knicks shooter, has been a key cog in the team's success.
Kidd is shaping up to be the Knicks' best signing in recent years.
Player Grade: A
There were many skeptics when New York inked Jason Kidd to a three-year deal this offseason, but the 39-year-old has done everything in his power to prove them wrong this season.
As the Knicks starting shooting guard, Kidd has reinvented himself as a spot-up shooter, and he's the best in the business. He's shot 38-of-72 from beyond the arc, or 52.8 percent. Consider his 92 percent clip from the free throw line, and his true shooting percentage sits at a sky-high 73.1.
His play has been essentially flawless. The marked improvement in team ball movement from when he's on the floor, as opposed to when he's resting, is worth noting. The offense is under more control when Kidd is available to direct traffic, and the team's effective field-goal percentage jumps from 50 percent to 54 percent when Kidd joins in on the fun (via 82games).
Just as surprising has been Kidd's impact on the defensive end. He's pick-pocketed countless guards in his 17 games, racking up 1.9 steals per.
It's safe to say that if Kidd sustains his play through an entire season, there's no reason the Knicks shouldn't be favorites in the East come April.
Novak hasn't been the lights-out shooter he was last year.
Player Grade: B-
Last year's NBA three-point king just isn't providing the same punch from deep this season.
Earlier in the year, Steve Novak endured his first shooting slump as a New York Knick. From Nov. 4 through Nov. 23 he shot just 32 percent from three-point range. Decent for your average shooter, but Novak clearly isn't your ordinary three-point man.
Since the slump, he's begun to clean up his act from three. His best performance came in his hometown Milwaukee, where he drilled 7-of-10 in a season-high 40 minutes.
His clip on the season is back up to 42 percent, but it still feels like Novak is missing open looks from deep—looks he would've cashed in on last year. It'll be interesting to see if Novak can regain his swagger from last year and break out the Discount Triple Check with more regularity.
Prigioni has showed flashes of great play this year.
Player Grade: B
The oldest rookie in NBA history clearly has the pedigree to make an impact in the NBA. His role on the Knicks, however, just doesn't call for the much.
Early on, Prigioni looked a bit skittish on NBA hardwood for the first time, but the Argentinian point guard adjusted smoothly soon after. The minutes, however, are hard to come by with Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton playing at such a high level.
He's shooting 46 percent from the field and 38 percent from three, which are both encouraging signs from a third-string point guard. Mike Woodson likes to run out backcourt combinations consisting of two point guards, so Prigioni has gotten burn alongside the two other 1s on the Knicks roster.
He's averaging just 13.8 minutes per game, but Pablo has made the most out of his limited time this year.
Smith has been incredibly streaky in 2012.
Player Grade: B
The enigma that is J.R. Smith has been nothing short of entertaining this season for the Knicks.
He started off the season scorching hot, as we all began to think that this may finally be the year Smith has his head screwed on straight. He was fully on board with Mike Woodson's ball-movement-intensive offense and was knocking down shots at a higher rate than ever before.
Recently, Smith has cooled off a ton but is still contributing as a primary source of offense behind Carmelo Anthony. His slash line of .392/.352/.820 doesn't stick out of the page, but Smith has been able to pack a punch with his shot.
Defensively, he's always trying. There's no issue there. The issue is, and always has been, decision-making. Too often we see J.R. stray from his man inexplicably or commit an ill-advised foul. Strides are being made with J.R. on the whole, but there's still a way to go in the 27-year-old's career progression.
Hopefully Smith can regain the stroke he was sporting early this season and propel the Knicks deep into the playoffs.
Thomas has looked his age thus far.
Player Grade: C
Kurt Thomas' second stint as a Knick clearly is a lot less important than his first New York go-around. Although racking up a few starts in the absence of Carmelo Anthony recently, the 10th overall pick in the 1995 NBA Draft has averaged just 10.6 minutes per game in what could be his last season in the league.
He's brought a consistent defensive presence in the paint in limited duty and an old, broken-down jump shot that constantly falls short due to the wear and tear of 18 NBA seasons. Thomas definitely isn't the Crazy Eyes of the early 2000s, but his leadership is important to Mike Woodson's club.
Wallace has played well above anyone's expectations this year.
Player Grade: B
Rasheed Wallace has contributed more than anybody planned, that's undeniable. But 'Sheed has had his ups and downs as a Knick this year.
Early on, Rasheed's mission was to prove he could still run with the young bucks, and he succeeded. But as the season grew older and it became apparent that Wallace would be a part of the Knicks rotation, a few issues arose with his offense.
We've seen Wallace's ability to post up with efficiency. However, he constantly chooses to play the role of spot-up man from straight on. Of his 134 field goal attempts, 64 have been from beyond the arc, although that number feels even higher. He's knocking them own at a decent rate of 31.3 percent, but his unwillingness to bang bodies down low limits the Knicks offense a bit.
On the other end, Wallace has used his size to lock down opposing bigs. He's averaged 10.3 rebounds and blocked 1.9 shots per 36 minutes this season in 19 games. Not bad for a 38-year-old fresh off a two-year retirement.
White has appeared in limited duty this season.
Player Grade: C+
James "'Flight" White has mainly been relegated to mop-up duty through the season's first 20-or-so games. He's been known for his lock-down defense and his athleticism, and we've seen a bit of both in limited time this year.
White has been used sparingly in non-garbage time, as well. He recently knocked down a three-pointer in Miami, tying his season high in that game with seven points.
There hasn't been much to complain about from White this season, just as there hasn't been much to justify grading him with anything above a C.
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