Jason Kidd is playing his best basketball of recent years.
With the team sitting at the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference, it's easy now to praise the New York Knicks' offseason player shuffles. It was a summer that grabbed many headlines both locally and nationally, and there was no shortage of skepticism at the season's beginning.
"Experts" couldn't seem to get enough of slamming the veteran-laden New York roster. After the additions of a declining Jason Kidd, a formerly retired Rasheed Wallace and several other head-scratchers, there was some reason for doubt heading into the year.
But Mike Woodson's crew made sure all that hate boiled over quicker than a Steve Novak release.
In the weeks leading up to the season, I graded each roster shuffle Glen Grunwald directed over the offseason. Over a month into the season, we now know enough to regrade those moves. Let's get right into it.
All stats are accurate as of games played prior to Dec. 13.
J.R. Smith came back on the cheap for 2012-13.
Preseason Grade: A-
Updated Grade: A-
J.R. Smith did the Knicks a solid this offseason in turning down larger offers to return to the Knicks on essentially a one-year deal. He's making just over $2.8 million, which ranks 41st among NBA shooting guards.
His 13.85 PER ranks him 24th among 2-guards, so consider that when you weigh the value of this signing. Grunwald's options at shooting guard were thin this summer, so he brought back one of the best weapons at the best price.
Smith has performed in his usual inconsistent fashion this year. He started off on a shooting tear, but many of his clips have regressed back towards career averages.
Of course, you'll still get the typical "what-in-the-world" on-court decisions that Smith has become infamous for over his nine NBA seasons. But with the Knicks so desperate for scoring in the backcourt, Smith is worth the compromise.
Plus, Knicks fans are privileged enough to enjoy his Twitter presence up close and personal!
All for the pocket change of $2.8 million.
We've seen very little of Camby this season.
Updated Grade: C-
The sign-and-trade for Marcus Camby this summer seemed questionable. Dishing out $13 million over three years to a 38-year-old center didn't originally seem like the wisest allocation of dollars.
However, ridding the team of roster-filler Jerome Jordan seemed convenient. Toney Douglas played his way from starting point guard to garbage-minute victory cigar last season. It was clear his days as a Knick were numbered. Josh Harrellson was a nice young piece but clearly didn't fit Woodson's mold.
Well, go figure, the aging center with a fresh new contract has appeared in just six games due to injury this season. Not exactly the best situation for Camby, considering he's the highest-paid Knick not named Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire or Tyson Chandler.
On the flip side, Douglas has revived his career in Houston. He's still playing second fiddle to Jeremy Lin at the point, but Kevin McHale has called on Douglas over Linsanity in crucial spots.
Douglas has averaged 15.1 points per 36 minutes this season.
Kidd has been one of the most valuable piece to this Knicks team.
Preseason Grade: C+
Updated Grade: A-
I'll be honest: I was convinced that bringing Jason Kidd on board was a terrible idea. Dedicating a three-year contract to a 39-year-old point guard is always risky (just ask Mitch Kupchak).
But to make matters worse, Kidd was in a sharp decline. His scoring, rebounding and assist numbers were all down, and he looked as if he had one foot out of the NBA door.
Fans certainly didn't warm up to the former crosstown rival after the preseason, either. He shot 26 percent from the field and just 18 percent from three-point range.
Once the regular season hit, however, it was as if the clock turned back a decade.
Kidd has shot lights out from the field this year. His 52.8 percent clip from beyond the arc leads the NBA. He's reinvented himself into a brand-new player with 72 of his 95 shot attempts coming from three-point range.
Both sides of the ball look much more elite when Kidd is at the controls. The offense sports much more continuity, and Kidd has had his fair share of nifty steals on defense.
Kidd has paid immediate dividends as the Knicks currently hold down the top spot in the East. Without him, that may not have been the case.
Novak has played well but not quite at last year's pace.
Updated Grade: B+
This past summer, when the Knicks opened their checkbook to keep the reigning three-point king in New York for four more years at $15 million, the general reaction was positive.
Steve Novak was a huge factor in the team's playoff push, and keeping him around long term couldn't hurt.
With his relatively modest price tag, not many fans had reservations involving the Discount Triple Check.
As this season has gone on, Novak has markedly improved in other areas like rebounding, defending and moving with the ball. His shot, however, hasn't been as deadly. He endured his first slump as a Knick earlier in the season but has since brought his three-point percentage back up to a more Novakian 42.3 percent.
If Novak can regain his shooting swagger from a season ago, he will dissipate any remaining worry in Knicks fans. They will be able to bask in the glory of the Discount Triple Check until 2016.
Felton has made a huge impact on the Knicks this season.
Preseason Grade: B+
Updated Grade: B+
The deal for Raymond Felton was the most controversial of the offseason, as it sealed Jeremy Lin's fate as a Houston Rocket, thus putting an immediate moratorium on Linsanity in New York.
The two point guards have been endlessly compared to one another through the season's first month-and-a-half. It's important to note that no matter whose numbers say what, the primary reason Lin isn't a Knick is because Woodson's team is built to win a championship this season.
The Knicks had no interest in developing a point guard—or anything else for that matter—and the Lin love affair came to a premature end.
Great, now that's out of the way.
Simply put, Felton has been everything the Knicks have needed out of a starting point guard. He's developed great chemistry with Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, and we expect him to rekindle the chemistry with Amar'e Stoudemire upon his return.
Felton is in the best shape of his career, and it's showing. He has blown past defenders to finish at the rim and found open shooters around the three-point line.
On a four-year deal at around $3.7 million per year, he is a bargain.
As for Kurt Thomas, well, veteran leadership is an asset to any team. That's about all there is to say.
And the crew the Knicks parted with?
Jared Jeffries grew to be a valuable piece of the Knicks defense, but he was easily replaced. In Portland, he's averaging one point and one rebound per game. Oh, and he still manages to look pretty funny.
Prigioni has been a reliable reserve thus far for Mike Woodson.
Preseason Grade: B+
Updated Grade: B
This preseason, Pablo Prigioni appeared on track to earn time over Jason Kidd at the backup point guard spot. As the season has progressed, Prigioni has proven to be a nice piece but is no Jason Kidd.
Pablo has struggled to get on the court this season due to the great play of Felton and Kidd. The 35-year-old Argentinian import has averaged just 13.8 minutes per game in his first NBA season.
But that's more of a credit to Felton and Kidd than a discredit to him.
He has shot 38 percent from three-point range and has displayed a propensity to find open shooters. He's certainly an upgrade at the third point guard over Mike Bibby and Toney Douglas last season.
When Kidd was suffering from back spasms earlier in the season, Prigioni spent a lot of time in the backcourt with Felton and excelled. He played his two highest-minute games in that span, including his night of season-highs against the Milwaukee Bucks. He put up 11 points and seven dimes in 28 minutes on 4-of-5 shooting.
Brewer has been an acceptable stopgap in the absence of Iman Shumpert.
Updated Grade: A
Towards the end of the summer, the Knicks were left without a starting shooting guard and Ronnie Brewer was left without a job. Needless to say, it was a perfect fit from the start.
Glen Grunwald needed a 2-guard to use as a stopgap until Iman Shumpert returned from his knee injury. For the veteran's minimum salary on a one-year contract, Brewer was the ideal choice.
Brewer fit into Woodson's defense-first mentality. After two seasons under defensive guru Tom Thibodeau as a Chicago Bull, Brewer embraced the mindset.
At the season's beginning, Brewer was knocking down shots at a shocking rate. The career 26-percent three-point shooter was knocking them down at a 42-percent clip through his first 17 games. Recently, he's cooled off, going just 1-of-8 on threes in his last four games.
His defense is not open to debate, however. He's averaged more than one steal per game in 21 starts this year.
He's an improvement over Landry Fields, who defected to the Toronto Raptors after New York failed to match the Raps' near-$19 million offer sheet for the mediocre swingman. Fields has played in just five games this year before having elbow surgery. He didn't score more than five points in any of those games.
But then again, Landry has a communications degree from Stanford, $19 million coming in and a very happy relationship at the moment. So you can be the judge of who's really winning the Brewer vs. Fields battle.
Wallace has been unexpectedly productive this year.
Preseason Grade: C+
Updated Grade: B+
When the Knicks inked Rasheed Wallace to a one-year deal for the vets' minimum, ending the forward's two-year retirement, it's likely that neither Grunwald, Woodson, Wallace, you or me knew that he would be this productive.
Well, knowing Rasheed, we probably shouldn't have been so doubtful.
On offense and defense, Wallace has been the Knicks' top forward off the bench. Behind J.R. Smith, he's the team's seventh man, after it was speculated that Wallace might not play a minute for the Knicks this season.
He's averaging 15 minutes per game. In normalized per-36 stats, Wallace is averaging 17.5 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks.
The one knock on Wallace is his shot selection. It seems as if every Knick has bought into Woodson's ideology of ball movement and taking good shots except for Wallace.
Sixty-four of his 134 field-goal attempts have been from three-point land, although that percentage feels much higher to Knicks fans. It seems as if Wallace is reluctant to step into the paint and bang bodies, although we've seen him successfully score this way as a Knick.
Some would say it's a minor issue—and it may be—but it's only a matter of time before 'Sheed steps into a poorly thought-out three-pointer in the wrong place at the wrong time.
For now though, Wallace has been everything we can expect out of a 38-year-old big man, plus much more.
You can follow me on Twitter on @JSDorn6.