Mike Woodson has not had much to smile about through the first two weeks of the season.
The New York Knicks' 2013-14 season has not started according to plan. Mike Woodson's team has exhibited poor spacing and ball movement on offense, while putting forth minimal effort on defense. And New York’s second-most valuable player, Tyson Chandler, went down with a broken fibula.
The low point came on Sunday, Nov. 10, at Madison Square Garden when Knicks fans booed the home team and chanted "Fire Woodson" during a 120-89 drubbing at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs.
Woodson has vacillated between a smaller starting lineup featuring two point guards and Carmelo Anthony at the 4, and playing a traditional shooting guard, with Andrea Bargnani at power forward. Minutes restrictions on Amar'e Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin, along with the injury to Chandler and suspension of J.R. Smith, have made it difficult for individuals to find a rhythm and develop chemistry as a unit.
Some players have struggled more than others, both in terms of effort and efficiency. The Knicks will have to drastically improve their production as individuals and a team in order to compete for a championship.
Carmelo Anthony's shot has not been falling.
Carmelo Anthony has put up his usual impressive numbers, averaging 23.2 points and 9.0 rebounds through the Knicks' first six games. He grabbed 17 boards against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Nov. 3 and tallied six steals and six assists at the Chicago Bulls on Oct. 31.
However, Anthony is shooting just 41.3 percent from the field and 31.8 percent from downtown, with a turnover rate of 11.5 percent, up from 9.3 percent last season. His defensive shortcomings have also been more glaring without Tyson Chandler to cover for him.
Some of Anthony's offensive struggles are attributable to the constant lineup changes that have taken place. When Woodson plays a bigger lineup, defenders have been sagging off of Andrea Bargnani and Amar'e Stoudemire, leaving Anthony less room to operate.
The Knicks' inconsistent effort is an indictment of Melo's leadership ability, and as the team's best player, he must bear the brunt of the blame for the Knicks' poor start.
Tyson Chandler was one of the few Knicks playing well before he broke his leg.
Tyson Chandler entered this season with a lot to prove after being embarrassed by Roy Hibbert in the Knicks' second-round playoff loss to the Indiana Pacers. And he played like it before breaking his right fibula in the first quarter of the Knicks' Nov. 7 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats.
Chandler looked spryer than late last season when he was battling a herniated disc in his neck. The 2011-12 Defensive Player of the Year averaged nine points, 11 rebounds and three blocks through the Knicks' first three games, including a 19-rebound performance against the Chicago Bulls.
Not surprisingly, the Knicks defense has been dreadful without him. New York's defensive rating with Chandler on the court is 92.2, without him, 109.2, via NBA.com/Stats (subscription required).
Raymond Felton has been unable to get the Knicks offense going.
Raymond Felton's primary responsibilities as the starting point are to create open shots for his teammates, generate ball movement and establish a rhythm to the offense. He has failed at all three.
Felton has been unable to break down defenses off of dribble penetration, and his shot selection has been horrendous. He has connected on a woeful 37.5 percent of his attempts from the field and 24 percent from behind the arc.
On the other end of the floor, he continues to be incapable of keeping opposing point guards out of the paint. Ricky Rubio, Kemba Walker and Tony Parker abused him in pick-and-rolls during the first two weeks of the season.
Iman Shumpert was inconsistent in J.R. Smith's absence.
Knicks fans were surprised that Mike Woodson was hesitant to name Iman Shumpert a starter until just before the beginning of the season. The young shooting guard showed flashes of greatness, especially on defense, during his first two years with the Knicks and appeared to be primed for a breakout season.
In retrospect, Woodson may have been correct in questioning whether Shump was ready for a bigger role.
Shumpert had an opportunity to assert himself offensively with J.R. Smith suspended for the first five games. But, after a 16-point performance (on 5-of-13 shooting) against the Milwaukee Bucks in the opener, he did not take more than eight shots in any of the next five games. He hoisted just three shots in 38 minutes during the Knicks' Nov. 8 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats.
Shump is shooting a significantly higher percentage than last year (44.2 percent compared to 39.6.) He has a quick trigger when wide open but is still reluctant to create a shot for himself or take his man off the dribble.
Of greater concern has been his inconsistent defense. At times, Shumpert has resembled the lockdown defender the Knicks grew accustomed to during his first two seasons. Yet, he has also surrendered many easy baskets due to a lack of focus or ill-advised gambles. His defense was atrocious in the Knicks' blowout loss to San Antonio, when he routinely lost sight of his man, resulting in backdoor layups.
Andrea Bargnani stepped up his game when Tyson Chandler went down.
It took little more than a quarter for the Madison Square Garden faithful to boo new Knick Andrea Bargnani. The Italian big man got off to a rough start in his Knicks debut, tallying as many turnovers (three) as made field goals.
He has started each of the five games since then, the last two at center, in place of the injured Tyson Chandler, and has shot relatively well, knocking down 37 percent of his attempts from the field and 35 percent of three-pointers. He shined in the Knicks' Nov. 8 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats, with 25 points, eight rebounds and five blocks.
However, Bargnani's shooting has not spread the floor as Knicks management had hoped. Defenders are sagging off of the 7-footer to help out on Carmelo Anthony and clog up the lane to stop pick-and-rolls. New York's offensive rating has dropped from 98.6 to 96.8 when he is on the court, via NBA.com/Stats.
Bargnani's porous defense is of greater concern. The Knicks' defensive rating skyrockets from 91.1 to 114.8 when he is in the game, via NBA.com/Stats. He has been slow in his defensive rotations, is not physical enough to bang with big men down low and, with the exception of the Charlotte game, has not offered any rim protection, which is particularly troubling in Chandler's absence.
The Knicks play their best basketball when Pablo Prigioni is on the floor.
Pablo Prigioni does not produce eye-popping statistics, but he does the little things to help the Knicks win. New York's ball movement is more fluid when he is in the game, and he has mastered the art of forcing a turnover after a made basket. Prigioni has played well during the early part of the season, connecting on seven of 11 three-point attempts.
Coach Woodson has done a poor job of using the Argentinian point guard effectively, moving him in and out of the starting lineup. Prigioni provided the Knicks with a spark off the bench in their losses to the Charlotte Bobcats and Minnesota Timberwolves, though both games were nearly out of reach by the time Woodson inserted him into the game in the second half.
Woodson recently admitted on ESPN Radio that the small lineup has worked for the Knicks and reinserted Prigioni into the starting lineup for the Knicks' last two games. However, the 36-year-old's playing time could decrease again with the return of J.R. Smith.
Metta World Peace provided some of the perimeter scoring the Knicks needed with J.R. Smith out. The 15-year veteran has been looking for his shot and knocking it down with consistency (45.9 percent from the field and 38.1 percent from three-point range.) He contributed 18 points, six rebounds and three steals in the Knicks' loss to the Charlotte Bobcats on Nov. 5.
Through six games, New York's offensive efficiency is eight points higher when World Peace is on the court than when he is not (101.5 to 93.5), via NBA.com/Stats.
The forward has also brought a defensive mentality and much-needed toughness to the Knicks front line. He has pestered opponents with his strong upper body and is averaging 1.8 steals per game. World Peace was one of the few players who came to play in the Knicks' 120-89 loss to San Antonio.
Amar'e Stoudemire is slowly working himself back into shape.
The Knicks are slowly working Amar'e Stoudemire back into the lineup after his third knee surgery in 12 months by holding him out of back-to-back games and keeping him on a strict minutes limit. Stoudemire has played in just four of the team's six games and is averaging 11 minutes of action in those contests.
The downside to curtailing his playing time is that he is unable to regain his conditioning or develop any type of rhythm. Further complicating matters is that Coach Woodson feels compelled to play Stoudemire greater minutes with Tyson Chandler on the shelf.
Stoudemire has looked awful in short stints. His timing is off and he has no lift in his legs. It is not clear whether that is a result of rust and lack of conditioning or a more permanent decline in his abilities due to numerous knee surgeries.
Kenyon Martin has been on a strict minutes limit.
Like Stoudemire, Kenyon Martin is on a minutes limit. Mike Woodson indicated during the preseason that he would restrict K-Mart to 10 minutes per game while the forward continues to work through discomfort in his left ankle. However, Martin exceeded that limit in the Knicks' losses to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Charlotte Bobcats, playing 16 and 18 minutes, respectively.
As seen in the picture above, K-Mart can still jump and has been effective in small doses. He scored six points and grabbed six rebounds against Minnesota.
Woodson may be forced to rapidly increase Martin's playing time due to Chandler's injury. He is the team's best post defender other than Chandler, and he and Cole Aldrich are the only two healthy shot-blockers on the roster.
Tim Hardaway Jr. failed to take advantage of J.R. Smith's absence.
Tim Hardaway Jr. has not lived up to the lofty expectations he created during the preseason. The rookie has received extended playing time with J.R. Smith out of action and has shot a dismal 35.6 percent from the field and 20.8 percent from behind the arc. He has not registered a steal or block in six games and has had minimal impact on the glass.
However, there have been encouraging signs. The rookie has demonstrated a nice feel for the game. The majority of his shots have been open looks taken within the flow of the offense. They will start to fall. He has also held his own on the defensive end.
Hardaway will have his ups and downs as he grows acclimated to the NBA game, though he will likely see less action now that Smith is back.