Year-End Grades for Every Key NY Knicks Player
The New York Knicks cannot wait to turn the page on the calendar after a dreadful start to the 2013-14 season. Any time a team underachieves to this degree, there is plenty of blame to go around. And yet, there have been some bright spots amid the darkness which has engulfed the franchise.
It can be difficult to assess individuals when the team plays so poorly as a whole. Solid performances are often overshadowed by selfish and incompetent teammates, and flashy statistics can be misleading when they are not accumulated within the team concept.
In grading the players I considered their individual statistics and how those statistics impacted the team's performance. Examining the team's efficiency in various areas when Player X was on the floor compared to when Player X was on the bench was particularly helpful.
I also delved into the reasons behind an individual player's struggles and tried to account for how the play or absence of certain teammates affected his contributions to the team.
* All statistics are current as of Dec. 23.
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Tim Hardaway Jr. has been one of the few bright spots for the Knicks. The rookie has added a new dimension to the offense with his ability to run the floor and finish on the break.
Hardaway is fearless and will not hesitate to pull the trigger on his jump shot if he is given space. He is averaging 8.4 points per game in 17.9 minutes of action and is connecting on 47.9 percent of his attempts from the field and 41.5 percent of his shots from behind the arc.
The University of Michigan product still has a lot to learn, particularly on defense. Hardaway Jr. is not up to speed on his defensive assignments and on-ball positioning. He is susceptible to back screens and backdoor cuts.
Martin has met expectations, providing toughness down low and some rim protection. He is a surprisingly good leaper for a 35-year-old with a history of knee problems and is good for at least one highlight-reel rejection every few games.
However, at this point in his career, K-Mart is nothing more than a backup power forward/center. The 14-year veteran did not make much of an impact as a starter when Tyson Chandler was hurt and his minutes have been limited by a nagging ankle injury.
Martin’s offensive arsenal is limited to putbacks and the occasional alley-oop, and he was never a great rebounder for his size. (His rebound percentage this season, 13.2, is actually a notch above his career percentage of 12.8, via basketball-reference.com.)
Pablo Prigioni was more effective last season when he frequently shared the backcourt with another point guard, either Raymond Felton or Jason Kidd. His offensive efficiency in 2012-13 was almost 14 points higher (119.4 to 105.6) when he and Felton played at the same time, via NBA.com (subscription required).
This season, Mike Woodson has used Prigioni as the point guard in a more conventional lineup. Prigioni has played just 76 minutes with Felton. He is shooting 41.5 percent from three, but is reluctant to take advantage of open looks, and he lacks the quickness to create shots off pick-and-rolls. Defensively, he has been torched by younger point guards.
Still, the pesky Prigioni routinely generates ball movement for an otherwise stagnant offense. New York's offensive rating (105.6 to 99), shooting percentage from the field (45.6 to 41.5) and behind the arc (37.7 to 33.1) and assist ratio (16.5 to 16.2) are all significantly higher when Prigioni is on the court than when he is on the bench, via NBA.com (registration required).
Amar'e Stoudemire's road back from his third knee surgery in nine months was complicated by restrictions that limited him to 15 minutes per night and prohibited him from playing in back-to-back games. As his playing time has grown more regular, the six-time All-Star has begun to develop a rhythm offensively.
Stoudemire will never regain the explosiveness that allowed him to dominate early in his career, though he has demonstrated in recent weeks that he is still capable of being an efficient scorer off the bench. Over his last ten games, STAT is averaging 10.2 points and 5.0 rebounds on 58.3 percent shooting in 21.2 minutes of action, including a stretch in early December in which he scored in double figures in five consecutive games, via NBA.com (registration required).
Stoudemire's biggest problem remains his defense, where his diminished athleticism can no longer compensate for his poor instincts. Teams target him in the pick-and-roll, and Woodson cannot play him at the same time as Andrea Bargnani, another woeful help defender.
Amar'e experienced swelling in his knee following the Knicks Dec. 16 loss to the Washington Wizards, his fourth game in five nights, via Mark Weinrech of SI.com. He will likely see a reduction in his minutes going forward.
This was supposed to be Iman Shumpert's breakout season. Instead, the third-year guard has lost confidence in his shot after connecting on 40.2 percent of his three-point attempts last season.
Shumpert is shooting a dreadful 35.2 percent from the field and is mired in a horrendous slump. Over his last five games, the shooting guard is averaging 3.4 points in 27.4 minutes per game, while shooting an incomprehensible 16.7 percent, via NBA.com (registration required). He repeatedly loses site of his man on defense and is often out of position after gambling for a steal.
Despite the mistakes, he remains the team’s premier perimeter defender. Woodson has switched Shump onto the opposing team’s leading scorer several times late in games.
Shumpert appears to be distracted by trade rumors. It is also possible that he is not right physically after undergoing surgery on his left knee over the summer, the same knee which suffered a torn ACL during his rookie season. The Knicks need Shump to get on track if they are going to turn around their season.
Andrea Bargnani is the Knicks' second-leading scorer at 14.3 points per game and his accuracy from mid-range has been critical as the team has struggled to overcome the poor shooting of Raymond Felton, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert. The Italian has also rebounded better than expected, grabbing 6.1 boards per 36 minutes, up from 4.6 last season, via basketball-reference.com.
Yet, the Knicks are more efficient offensively when Bargs is on the bench (102.2 points per possession) than when he is on the court (101.0). The former Toronto Raptor has failed to create space for driving lines and Anthony's post moves with his outside shooting. He is connecting on just 29.3 percent of his three-point attempts and teams are daring him to fire away.
Defensively, he is a nightmare. The big man has held his own as a post defender, but his help defense has been laughable, and teams are exploiting him in pick-and-rolls.
As demonstrated by Chris Herring of WSJ.com, the lack of arc on Bargnani's shots leads to fast breaks and an inordinate number of baskets for the opposing team. Of the 58 shots Bargnani has taken outside the paint, 35 (60.3 percent) have resulted in baskets on the other end. That's the highest rate in the league according to Stats LLC, via Herring of WSJ.com, and has been the trend for Bargnani over the past five seasons.
It has been a disastrous season for Raymond Felton who has been dealing with an assortment of injuries. The Knicks point guard missed ten games due to a sore hamstring and pain in his hip, and he has not been himself when he is in the lineup. Felton is unable to turn the corner on the pick-and-roll, his shooting has suffered and his typically poor defense has been downright awful.
New York is 6-11 in games in which Felton has played. The team's offensive efficiency is 3.4 points better (102.8 to 99.4) when he is on the bench than when he is on the floor, via NBA.com (registration required). Even the team's assist ratio drops when he is in the game (16.7 to 15.7).
The feisty Felton has done his best to play through the injuries, but it may be in his and the team's best interest to shut him down for an extended period of time. Hamstring injuries in particular tend to linger and only improve with rest.
J.R. Smith has been a massive disappointment since the Knicks inked him to a three-year, $18 million contract this summer. He waited until after signing the deal to undergo surgery on his left knee and was suspended for the first five games of the season for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
Upon his return, Smith abandoned the aggressive style of play that earned him Sixth Man of the Year honors and reverted to his days as a chucker.
Over the final 20 games of the 2012-13 regular season, Smith averaged 4.6 three-point attempts and 6.6 free-throw attempts per game. So far this year, his three-point attempts are up to 6.2 and free-throw attempts down to 1.6 per game, via NBA.com (registration required). He jacked up 17 three pointers in the Knicks' Dec. 18 win over the Milwaukee Bucks, making just five of them.
J.R.’s shooting percentage and point totals have plummeted. He is scoring just 11.5 points per game on 34.6 percent shooting, down from 18.1 and 42.2 percent last season.
Smith’s defense has been troubling as well. Until recently, he did not appear to be moving as well as he had in the past, and his frequent mental lapses have resurfaced.
J.R. has shown improvement over his last few games. He turned in his best performance of the season against the Orlando Magic on Dec. 23, racking up 18 points on 7-of-17 shooting, including 3-of-6 from downtown, four assists and two blocks.
Tyson Chandler had a lot to prove this season after being dominated by Roy Hibbert in the Knicks' second-round playoff loss to the Indiana Pacers. His 2013-14 campaign got off to a rough start when he broke his left leg against the Charlotte Bobcats on Nov. 5.
Chandler played very well before the injury and has returned to form in the three games since his return, wreaking havoc on the glass and throwing down powerful dunks. The big difference in his game this season is his willingness to take jumpers from the wing or elbow.
Chandler's absence served as a reminder of his value to the team, especially on the defensive end. The Knicks' defensive rating when Chandler is in the game is 97.3 (which would rank second in the league) compared to 106.0 when he is on the bench (which would rank 27th), via NBA.com (registration required). New York lost 15 of the 21 games that Chandler missed and is 3-3 with him.
It is lazy to blame the star of the team, Carmelo Anthony, for the Knicks' woeful start. In actuality, Anthony is performing at a comparable level to last season, when he was considered an MVP candidate at this point in the year and the team won 54 games. It is his teammates who have dropped off.
Anthony is second in the league in scoring at 26.5 points per game and his true shooting percentage (54.5) and effective field percentage (47.9) are right at his career averages (54.5 and 48.0, respectively), via basketball-reference.com. He is hauling in a career-high nine rebounds per game and is leading the league in minutes played with 39.9 per game.
The same criticisms that have followed Anthony throughout his career still apply: He does not always provide maximum effort on defense and his team’s offense tends to stagnate when he has the ball.
Yet, the perception that he has not been a willing passer is misleading. According to SportVU's player tracking data, Anthony is averaging 6.8 assist opportunities per game (passes by a player to a teammate in which the teammate attempts a shot, and if made, would be an assist). That rate is comparable to Paul George (7.6) and higher than that of All-Star forwards Blake Griffin (6.1), LaMarcus Aldridge (6.0) and Dirk Nowitzki (5.7).
Still, Anthony cannot earn any higher than a B when his team is 9-18, and he has exhibited an apparent lack of leadership during its tough start. A player of his caliber should have found a way to eke out a few more wins when Tyson Chandler was out and his teammates were struggling.