NY Knicks' Hottest and Coldest Players Heading into the All-Star Break
The New York Knicks' 32-17 record could give the impression that the season has, to this point, been a breeze. In reality, their first 49 games has been a roller coaster ride which some could argue is on its way down hill.
Carmelo Anthony has led the team to the Eastern Conference's second best record, in his most dominant NBA season. A majority of the squad has battled injuries much of the way, but the Knicks have managed to maintain their dominant standing in the East.
As the All-Star break approaches, the Knicks have a slue of players playing their best basketball of the season—as well as some playing exceptionally poorly. The longest break in action seems like an opportune time to break down these Knicks, and we'll do so here.
Red Hot: Amar'e Stoudemire
Last 5 Games: 16 PPG 5.2 RPG 0.4 APG
It appears that STAT has finally regained that dominant, intimidating form we last saw in the 2011 NBA Playoffs.
For whatever reason, last year was one of the worst of Amar'e Stoudemire's career. Expectations were low heading into this year, especially after missing the first two months with another knee injury. But Amar'e is proving to us all that he has much more left in the tank.
He's shot an astounding 58 percent from the field in his 19 games—all as a reserve—including 63 percent in his last 14 contests. The rebounding numbers are down, but not unexpectedly when considering the amount of boards Tyson Chandler is pulling down this season.
Amar'e's offseason work with Hakeem Olajuwon has paid immediate dividends for the Knicks. Stoudemire's post game seems dramatically improved, and he now seeks scoring via post-ups more than through screen-and-rolls—his bread and butter of recent years. His lift is very much in tact, and Amar'e has thrown down a variety of vicious dunks in limited time in 2013.
STAT's defense is a work-in-progress—as per usual with Stoudemire—but he hasn't been as blatantly incompetent on that end in recent games. Anything is an improvement for the defensively challenged forward who claims to have "never been taught" that aspect of the game.
When considering the circumstances—returning from knee surgery and coming off the bench for the first time in an 11-year career—Stoudemire's resurgence is remarkable.
Ice Cold: Steve Novak
Last 5 Games: 6.4 PPG 0.8 RPG 0.0 APG
By now it's fairly clear: Teams have discovered how to eliminate Steve Novak from a game.
Upon entering the rotation full-time last season, Novak threw up 6.1 three-point attempts per game, per Basketball-Reference.
Since January 21, that number is down to just three per game.
This issue wouldn't be so troublesome for the Knicks if Novak wasn't so one-dimensional—but it is, because he is. Novak's defense seems to bite the Knicks where it hurts at least once every game, and he rarely scores after dribbling at all.
In essence, Novak is good for getting open and drilling three-pointers. Teams rarely forget to cover the sharpshooter—he's still nailing his attempts at 44-percent clip—and basically take Novak out of the game on offense. On the other end, Novak's defense basically enables the Knicks' opponent to operate on a power play.
If Mike Woodson doesn't draw up more sets designed for Novak to get open looks, it's possible that the shooter could fall out of the team's rotation.
Red Hot: Tyson Chandler
Last 5 Games: 7.6 PPG 14.2 RPG 1.0 APG
Tyson Chandler is heading to Houston this All-Star Weekend, and very much in part to his exceptional stretch over recent weeks.
Chandler started off the season a step slow due to a knee injury suffered in the team's last preseason game against the Brooklyn Nets, but has put up impressive numbers since recovering.
In his last 37 games, dating back to Nov. 26, Chandler has averaged 11.8 points and 12 rebounds per game, according to Basketball-Reference.
He recently completed a three-game stretch in which he grabbed 20 boards in each.
Chandler has been the Knicks' constant over the last season-and-a-half, and the most recent has been no different. He's continued to battle through injuries, but is still one of the most efficient centers in the NBA, with a 20.5 PER.
Ice Cold: Jason Kidd
Last 5 Games: 3.6 PPG 3.6 RPG 2.4 APG
What started as such a promising season for the 39-year-old Jason Kidd is now shaping up to be much more of what we all expected heading in.
Through his first 25 games, Kidd averaged nine, four and four in 30 minutes per contest. He was among the league leaders in three-point shooting with a 45-percent mark from downtown. He was thriving off the ball as the Knicks two-guard, and the Knicks offense depended on his wisdom and savvy.
Sure enough, the extended minutes started effecting Kidd's production—after all, he signed with the Knicks expecting to be Jeremy Lin's backup point guard.
Since those first 25 games, Kidd's three-point clip has crashed down to 29.4 percent. He's averaging only 5.6 points and 3.1 assists over his last 19 games, and looks nothing like the Kidd that the Knicks so closely depended on during the season's first quarter. Predictably, the Knicks offense looks nothing like it did in that stretch, either.
Kidd is 7-of-his-last-35 from beyond the arc—or a 20-percent clip—dating back to Jan. 26.
His back issues have flared up from time to time, and they most likely are playing a role in Kidd's recent struggles. Regardless, Kidd will need to return to form if the Knicks wish to overpower opponents like they did during their red-hot opening stretch.
If it wasn't for the All-Star break, it would probably be a good time for Knicks fans to panic over their team's point guard situation.
Red Hot: Carmelo Anthony
Last 5 Games: 29.0 PPG 7.2 RPG 2.8 APG
Aside from an aberration sprinkled occasionally throughout his 42 games, Carmelo Anthony has basically been red-hot all season long.
He leads the NBA in scoring with 29 points per game, and is playing more efficiently than he has through most of his career—his 24.55 PER is sixth league-wide.
Through his last 11 games, he's put up 29 with seven boards on average. He's been the Knicks leader and catalyst throughout the year, as they've constantly turned to him when all else has failed.
He's essentially been the entire Knicks offense for the last two games against the Minnesota Timberwolves and Los Angeles Clippers—he put up 36 at Minnesota and 42 against the Clips in a losing effort.
Anthony has needed to step up this season as the leader of a team with a championship window that's small enough to confuse for a peephole. Luckily for the veteran-heavy Knicks, 'Melo has come up bigger than ever in 2012-13.
Ice Cold: Iman Shumpert
Last 5 Games: 4.2 PPG 2.0 RPG 1.8 APG
Iman Shumpert's recovery from knee surgery isn't going as smoothly as he'd hoped.
The second-year man was chomping at the bite to return to action after missing the first 10 weeks of the season, but is suffering through the most discouraging play of his young career.
It's clear that Shump's body hasn't caught up with his high hopes just yet, which is to be expected after so much time away from NBA ball. At the very least though, Shumpert was expected to contribute lock-down perimeter defense like we saw from him during his rookie year. In 12 games this season, however, it's been a struggle on both ends.
Shumpert is a player whose game is predicated primarily on athleticism, so without being able to jump out of the gym or keep up with the league's quickest guards, he's struggling to find his place on the court.
He has improved his three-point shooting, however. He's 12-of-29 (.414) from beyond the arc—vastly improved from his .306 mark as a rookie.
Knicks coach Mike Woodson may have given the 21 year old the bode of confidence he needed Tuesday, when he told Stephen A. Smith on ESPN Radio 98.7 in New York that Shumpert will not be traded at or before the deadline.
Hopefully it'll give Shumpert the spark he needs to return to the form that stole Knicks fans' hearts just a year ago.
Follow me on Twitter at @JSDorn6.