The New York Knicks have struggled, but there may be sunlight on the horizon.
An offensive surge from Iman Shumpert to ring in the New Year has reminded us of the talent lying latently across the Knicks roster. Despite the 11-22 record, New York isn't one of the league's least talented teams.
However, for a few reasons, the first half of the 2013-14 NBA season hasn't gone the way James Dolan and the Knicks had expected.
Certain players like J.R. Smith have underachieved, while injuries have limited key contributors like Raymond Felton, Metta World Peace and Pablo Prigioni.
Let's take a look at how all the athletes on the Knicks rank against each other.
Stats are accurate as of Monday, Jan. 6, 2014.
15. Cole Aldrich
Aldrich played decently in the few minutes he's received, but his upside is limited. He's a step or two too slow to be a force in the pick-and-roll, and his lack of explosiveness has him at odd ends in the post, on both sides of the ball. He may be the most expendable player on the roster.
14. Jeremy Tyler
Tyler hasn't received the opportunity to showcase his abilities, but the potential is there with him. He handed in an impressive D-League resume, averaging 18 points and 10.2 rebounds, before forcing the Knicks to waive Chris Smith to open up a roster spot. Tyler provides New York with athleticism, size and youth, which the Knicks desperately need at the 4 and 5 spots.
13. Metta World Peace
Metta World Peace may make random comments to the media and on Twitter that sound absurd, but the Queensbridge native is keeping himself amused while his body inches its way toward 100 percent. Before being sidelined, World Peace was a solid contributor to head coach Mike Woodson's rotation. He defended well, picked up steals and grabbed rebounds, and he didn't detract from the offense like some of his teammates.
12. Beno Udrih
Because of injuries, Udrih has taken on a role larger than fit for him. He's a competent point guard with three-point range, but he's a horrible defender with suspect lateral movement. In a perfect world, he'd come off the bench, play 15 to 20 minutes, hit a few shots and dish a couple of dimes.
Expecting Udrih to run an offense for 30 plus minutes per game isn't in the Knicks' best interest. His production on offense simply doesn't outweigh the damage caused by his defensive limitations.
11. Toure Murry
Murry finished 2013 strong and has looked impressive defensively thus far in 2014. He has good size at the 1, checking in at 6'5", and has been a ball hawk when paired with Iman Shumpert in the backcourt. Murry still has a ways to go offensively, but he's improving with each game as he finds himself adapting to the pace and physicality of the NBA.
J.R. Smith is doing everything he can to get kicked out of Mike Woodson's rotation, but for some bizarre reason that hasn't occurred. While Smith is talented, it's become evident that he lacks the basketball IQ necessary to be a positive contributor consistently.
After addressing his poor shot selection last season, Smith has regressed into the brick laying chucker that has prematurely capped his potential. Against the Milwaukee Bucks (Dec. 18), Smith took an amazing 17 three-pointers and only made five.
Smith is shooting a career low 34.8 percent from the field and has done little to imply hope in a turnaround.
It might be in New York's best interest to shop the struggling shooting guard before executives and coaches realize last season's performance was merely an aberration.
Raymond Felton's struggles on the court have come from him being hampered with injuries for most of the season. Felton isn't a great player by any means, but he plays tough and isn't afraid to take a chance and make a big play.
Unfortunately, the amount of big plays Felton can make are outnumbered by the ones he can't.
Too often he'll force a pass or a difficult shot in traffic, which results in a turnover. And he isn't good enough as a defender to make up for his wasted possessions.
Felton could be a serviceable point guard in the right system, but with the way New York's offense is currently structured, he isn't the dynamic playmaker the Knicks need.
Pablo Prigioni's impact on games may not always show up in box scores, but he does the little things necessary to help a team become a contender.
He's a smart passer that doesn't force plays, and his unselfishness is responsible for him only taking quality shots. Before being sidelined, Prigioni shot 44 percent from the field and 43.1 percent from behind the arc, on 3.1 and 2.4 attempts per game, respectively.
He's good at picking up deflections and being a pest defensively, despite not having the athleticism of the league's elite guards. He won't be a lockdown perimeter defender, but he isn't a liability either.
For the Knicks offense to run smoothly, Prigioni needs to be on the court dictating the tempo and maintaining proper ball movement.
Amar'e Stoudemire has had a tough tenure with the Knicks, and this season hasn't exactly been easier on him. The problem with him has been his health, and while he's been more productive this year than last, he's still far from someone New York can rely on for 30 minutes per game.
However, his impact—offensively—when he has his legs under him has been positive.
Against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Christmas Day, Stoudemire went 10-of-16 from the field for 22 points. He also shot the ball well against the Toronto Raptors (Dec. 28), knocking down 9-of-12 shots from the field and 5-of-6 free throws for 23 points, to go along with nine rebounds, one assist, one steal and two blocks.
Stoudemire may never get back to the explosive and dominant ways that earned him the max contract the Knicks dished out, but he can still be a valuable asset, if he's able to trot onto the court most nights.
Kenyon Martin is one of the few Knicks head coach Mike Woodson could consistently rely upon to defend and rebound well.
Throughout the month of December, K-Mart swatted 1.3 shots per game. He also grabbed 3.9 RPG which was down from the 4.8 he averaged throughout November. The drop off is mostly a reflection of Martin picking up a few minor injuries over the course of the season.
He's always focused when he's on the court, and his hustle and defensive awareness makes Martin a great reserve big man.
Like Pablo Prigioni, K-Mart is one of those key role players you need to make a playoff run: He's tough, experienced and holds his teammates accountable.
Tim Hardaway Jr. has hardly looked like a rookie at all this season.
He's had some bold performances, including a pair of 21-point games against the New Orleans Pelicans (Dec. 1) and Oklahoma City Thunder (Dec. 25), in which he shot 6-of-10 and 8-of-19 from the field, respectively.
On the season, Hardaway Jr. is scoring 8.7 PPG, but thanks to those two 21-point performances, in addition to seven other games in which he picked up at least 10 points, he scored 11.7 PPG throughout December.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, per 36 minutes, Hardaway Jr. is averaging 16.6 PPG with field goal and three-point percentages of 46.4 and 41.9. The rookie is getting 18.8 MPG, but is more deserving of the 32.4 MPG J.R. Smith has received, and it is only a matter of time until he becomes New York's sixth man.
Andrea Bargnani possesses a soft touch foul line extended, but he somehow struggles with hitting his shots elbow-to-elbow in the paint, as you can see on his shot chart, via NBA.com.
Bargnani is shooting 45 and 53.1 percent on each of the wings, but in a crucial part of the paint near the foul line, he's only making 37.5 percent of his shots.
As a result of him missing a few extra shots per game that he should be hitting, Bargnani is only putting up 13.8 PPG.
The former No. 1 overall pick of the 2006 NBA Draft could potentially score around 17 points per game if he made those jumpers in the paint and cut back on quickly hoisting threes with a defender in his face.
Iman Shumpert started 2014 with back-to-back stellar performances, notching 27 and 26 points against the San Antonio Spurs (Jan. 2) and Houston Rockets (Jan. 3). New York needs Shump to continue playing confidently and brazenly on offense.
So far in the New Year, Shumpert is 13-of-17 from the three-point line—a spot on the floor he struggled with throughout December, when he nailed only 27.9 percent of his shots behind the arc.
The Knicks know they have one of the league's better defenders in Shumpert, but if his offense can be more consistent, New York will see a major boost in the wins column.
If Shump could consistently knock down shots from the perimeter and be a force attacking off the dribble, the Knicks offense should have its proper spacing and be separated from its stagnancy.
Like Anthony, the Knicks could only go as far as Tyson Chandler takes them on the defensive end. When Chandler was sidelined earlier in the season, New York went through a miserable stretch in which it lost nine straight games between Nov. 14 and Dec. 5.
Since Chandler returned to action, the Knicks have gone 4-5. In the 13 games he's played in, he's picked up 7.6 RPG, 1.5 BPG and 0.9 SPG. Those numbers should improve in the second half of the year.
Carmelo Anthony is having a fantastic season statistically, scoring 26 PPG, grabbing 8.8 RPG and dishing 2.9 APG. But New York isn't exactly where it needs to be, currently checking in with a 11-22 record—good for last place in the Atlantic Division.
That isn't to say Melo has been the problem. In fact, it's the opposite.
The Knicks have been so dreadful, with lousy defensive rotations and poor offensive possessions littered in every game. But because of Anthony's scoring ability, New York's season still has a purpose. In the three games Anthony missed, the Knicks lost by at least 10 points and the offense was somehow more stagnant than usual.
If Melo could continue dishing the ball as he has in the New Year, dropping four assists against the San Antonio Spurs (Jan. 2) and five against the Dallas Mavericks (Jan. 5), in addition to the scoring load he has picked up, the Knicks could find themselves in the playoffs and winning a series or two.