Ranking the New York Knicks' 5 Most Improved Players This Season
The New York Knicks are an improved team in comparison to last season. They've revamped their roster, and as a result they're in a position to compete with the Eastern Conference elite.
It didn't happen overnight, but the Knicks escalated to another level of supremacy in the Atlantic Division, with a current lead over the Brooklyn Nets by 3.5 games.
However, based on what we've seen this season, you can single out five guys in particular that have stepped their games up.
5. Jason Kidd
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Jason Kidd was a huge pickup for the New York Knicks over the summer. He provided them with a veteran leader with championship experience, an athlete of high basketball IQ and a legit backup that can run the point guard position.
There was concern about his age and how well he would produce, especially considering his decline last season with the Dallas Mavericks—he was averaging 6.2 points, 5.5 assists and 4.1 rebounds nightly.
The veteran point guard did not look like himself last season, and many believed that he was on his way out of the NBA.
J. Kidd has silenced the critics since coming over to New York.
In November, the point guard was averaging eight points a night with just over three assists. He got even better in December, scoring almost 10 points a game, while also finding his teammates on 5.4 assists.
He declined shortly after—and they say "age ain't nothing but a number"—but in his second game this month, he managed 14 points against the Miami Heat, and has an average in March of nine points per game to go with 6.3 rebounds and four assists.
Although it seemed like Kidd's playing days were coming to an end last season, he's giving Knicks fans a reason to believe otherwise.
4. Raymond Felton
Raymond Felton was another key addition to this New York Knicks' roster. However, many people considered this acquisition a gamble considering Felton's lack of production last season.
In his 60 games with the Portland Trail Blazers last season, Felton averaged 11.4 points per game, the lowest points-per-game average of his career.
Raymond acknowledged that he played poorly last season, and a big reason for that was that he came to camp overweight. He's always been a stocky point guard, but last year he appeared to have ballooned because of the lockout.
Fortunately for the Knicks, Felton's stock wasn't too high and New York acquired him for relatively nothing.
Since coming back to Madison Square Garden for his second stint, Felton appears more comfortable than he has been in the last two years. He's running Mike Woodson's system perfectly, and he's even allowed Amar'e Stoudemire to flourish in a few games—the pick-and-roll these two run is just flawless.
Felton had an excellent December, posting up 17.2 points per game along with 5.8 assists.
At the beginning of that month, Ray showed just why the Knicks were right taking the risk on him. He dropped 27 points, seven assists and four rebounds on December 6 against the Miami Heat.
With this kind of point guard play, it's the start to what could be something special.
3. Carmelo Anthony
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Carmelo Anthony looked like a totally different player at the beginning of the season. He was playing defense, distributing the ball among his team and even hustling!
Although some things have changed, Melo has still improved for the most part.
For one, he looks for his teammates a lot more than we've been accustomed to.
In the month of January, Anthony averaged 4.2 assists per game, including a seven-assist game against the Brooklyn Nets.
To prove that he can work with Amar'e Stoudemire, you may have noticed the forward feeding STAT more often than the norm. Not only has it made Stoudemire look good, it's also allowed Melo to appear selfless in the bright lights of Madison Square Garden.
Carmelo Anthony is also scoring more often and at will.
He's averaging 28.2 points per game, the most since 2009 when he maintained the same average. His 28.2 average is the second-highest average in the league, only trailing Kevin Durant by four-tenths of a point.
Although Anthony has cooled off in recent weeks, and now with his newest injury listing him as day-to-day, he's still improved significantly and is giving fans something they haven't had in a while—a winning team to cheer for.
2. J.R. Smith
Is J.R. Smith still a little erratic on the shooting end?
Has Smith improved his game?
J.R. has not only managed to play defense this season, but he looks like he gets a kick out of stopping opponents, even in Indiana when things got heated with Pacers' guard Lance Stephenson. It just ignited him to play harder...until he got tossed.
Smith is also dishing out the ball a lot more than he's been known for.
Although his season average is just under three assists per game, he's connected with others on several occasions, sometimes bringing a shift in momentum to his team. He'll penetrate the defense and kick out to an open Jason Kidd, or whoever is open as a result of him drawing that double-team.
That's not all J.R.'s improved on.
Smith is starting to get a knack for rebounding. This season, the guard's averaging 5.2 boards a game. But this month, he's already had two 12-rebound games.
Under coach Mike Woodson, J.R. Smith appears to have transformed into a decent all-around player.
1. Tyson Chandler
Since coming to the New York Knicks last season, Tyson Chandler has been the force that has kept this team playing defense.
His rebounding skills are superior to all, and his offensive rebounds have come at key moments.
Since the All-Star break, Chandler has been averaging about 4.3 offensive rebounds per game, with a total of 12.1 rebounds a night in that same time span. In comparison to past years, the big man's 11.3 rebounds per game average this season is his highest since he was with the New Orleans Hornets in the 2007-08 season.
It should come as no surprise that he's managed to notch 20 double-doubles this season, but when we heard that No. 6 would work with Hakeem "The Dream" Olajuwon, we knew we were in store for more than the usual Tyson Chandler.
However, coming into this season, Chandler actually looked capable of having some great offensive games as well.
Tyson currently averages 11.2 points per game, but we know the seven-footer is capable of more than that.
He's had 28 games in which he's scored between 10 and 19 points, and the center even has five games where he's scored between 20 and 29 points.
Tyson Chandler has improved his game, and as a result, he's improved this Knicks team and given them a true identity.