Grading the NY Knicks' Players at 2014 NBA All-Star Break
In 82 games last season, the New York Knicks lost 29 times. Through 52 contests in 2013-14, this year's group has already dropped 32 games and is on the outside looking in at the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
A result of poor play from everyone on the roster, with the exception of Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks' season-long struggles are the culmination of poor coaching, poor roster construction over the offseason and brutal instruction from upper management.
With the first half of the season in the books, New York stands at 10th in the East, two-and-a-half games out of a playoff seed. More importantly, the team is five games off pace of the Washington Wizards for the sixth seed, which would ensure a first-round playoff matchup devoid of powerhouses Indiana or Miami.
Little has gone right this season for Mike Woodson's group, and predictably, New York's primary rotation players have faltered over the season's first half. Ahead, we grade their brutal stretches heading into the All-Star break.
Player Grade: F
If it wasn't clear earlier in the season, it is now: Raymond Felton is the worst starting point guard in the NBA, and it isn't particularly close.
Of all qualified players who have spent the majority of minutes at point guard, the only ones who have posted a worse win-shares-per-48-minutes metric, according to Basketball-Reference, are three rookies: Victor Oladipo, a natural off-the-ball player getting run at point in an experimental season for Orlando, Michael Carter-Williams of the 15-win 76ers and Phil Pressey of the rebuilding Celtics.
The defensive end is where Felton has solidified himself among the league's worst 1s. According to Synergy (subscription required), he's allowing 1.08 points per play while defending spot-ups, which ranks 245th. When trying to keep tabs on pick-and-roll ball-handlers, he ranks 180th, fouling his man 7 percent of the time. He's also allowed seven and-1s on the year. For comparison, he's only connected on two three-point plays this season.
His shooting numbers have crashed back down near his career averages, as he is connecting on a miserable 41 percent of his field goals, 30 percent of his threes and 67 percent of his free throws.
With him in charge of initiating ball movement, the Knicks rank 25th in assists, while isolations and post-ups have made up for nearly a quarter of their offensive plays.
It's time for a change at the point guard position for New York, which has tried to re-engage the Toronto Raptors in talks for Kyle Lowry, according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News. However, Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Raps have no intention of moving the guard.
Player Grade: C
In a season that had all the makings of being a breakout one for third-year swingman Iman Shumpert, the 23-year-old has regressed at an alarming rate.
In 27 minutes this season over 50 starts, he has averaged seven points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.2 steals, making just 38 percent of his shots. More concerning, he has gone scoreless in six games and scored just five points or less in 26 of 50 games.
He remains New York's lone defensive talent along the perimeter, but he has even regressed in that area, too. Far too often, as has been the case his entire career, Shumpert has been caught over-helping then over-recovering to his man, only to get blown by for simple buckets.
According to 82games, his opponents on the wings have combined for a player efficiency rating above 18 and an effective field-goal percentage of 55 to shooting guards and 69 to small forwards.
It wouldn't be fair to move on from this discussion without placing at least partial blame on head coach Mike Woodson, who has never seemed to embrace Shumpert. At the first hint of a defensive miscue or offensive folly, the coach hasn't hesitated to yank the young player from a game, while J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton could seemingly get away with on-court sleepwalking under the head coach.
He has taken Shumpert's confidence and beaten it to a pulp. Whether that's what is solely to blame for his disappointing campaign is worth discussing, but the bottom line is that the Knicks can't survive with a starting wing who is playing as poorly as he has this year.
Player Grade: A
In a season filled with so much turmoil and depression, Carmelo Anthony's greatness has been a lone bright spot for the Knicks.
After a slow start in shooting, Anthony would be in the MVP conversation if his teammates were holding up their end of the bargain. Since Dec. 5, in a 33-game sample, 'he has shot 46 percent on 21 attempts per game, including an astounding 47 percent from three—making 2.5 per game—and 86 percent from the line. In addition, he's grabbing eight rebounds, dishing 3.2 assists and coming away with a steal on average.
His 24.5 PER is right around the career-high 24.8 he recorded last season. Over the full season, his 8.6 boards per game almost edge Tyson Chandler's 8.8 for the team lead.
His playing time between the forward slots has been more weighted toward the 3 this season. 2012-13 saw roughly a 75-25 split in favor of the bigger position, while this season is more 60-40. According to 82games, his production at each spot has been nearly identically impressive.
It's hard to argue that this season has been among Anthony's best ever and possibly even the best. The shame is that despite his efforts, the Knicks are light-years away from contending and would be smart to consider trade options for their star before he bolts for greener pastures this offseason.
Player Grade: D
It's hard to blame Andrea Bargnani for his putrid overall performance with the Knicks. His career-long numbers all pointed to a disappointing season for the man James Dolan shipped away three draft picks and three players for.
The Knicks have actually posted a positive net rating with Bargnani on the bench this season, outscoring opponents by 2.1 points per 100 possessions while he's sitting. He's one of four such Knicks with at least 600 minutes played this season, but that 2.1 number is the highest of the four, via NBA.com.
But this should have been expected. Since his third pro season, he has posted a positive net rating just once. He's a career minus-four points per 100 possessions, according to Basketball-Reference.
Despite being a 30.3 percent three-point shooter over the previous two seasons, Bargnani's shooting ability was the primary reason for his acquisition. After a second-round ouster in the playoffs to Indiana last season, the team felt a need to acquire a big who could pull centers like Roy Hibbert away from the paint.
Needless to say, Bargnani hasn't been that type of player, and it was asinine to suspect he ever would be.
He has shot 27.8 percent from distance this season and has mainly clogged the paint and mid-range offensively while on the floor. Per NBA.com, he operates primarily from the same range as Carmelo Anthony, with 37 percent of his shots coming from the mid-range this season (whereas Anthony has taken 44 percent of his attempts from there).
Despite Bargnani's occasional scoring prominence, his defending is the culprit for his net futility. Even while being relatively reliable in one-on-one post-up defense, the 28-year-old has never shown an ability to comprehend team scheme defending or merely the concept of help.
This season has been no different, and it's killed the Knicks, particularly when he has lined up at center.
Finally, the 7-footer has posted the seventh-best defensive rebounding percentage among Knicks with 150 minutes played. For somebody who started at center for some 25 games, that number is...not ideal.
Player Grade: C
There was a four-game stretch to start the season where Tyson Chandler appeared ready to re-solidify his name as a top-flight center in the Eastern Conference. He averaged nine points, 11 boards and three blocks per game in that time and looked as athletic and recharged as he was during his inaugural Knicks campaign.
Then he broke his leg on Nov. 5, missed nearly two months and has played his worst basketball in recent memory.
Once renowned as one of the league's best defensive centers, he is a mere shell of the 2012 defensive player of the year. With the team's putrid perimeter defending and Chandler acting as the last—or only—line of defense, it's almost as if he avoids contesting layups and dunks in order to condescendingly teach his teammates in-game lessons.
His opponents are shooting around 50 percent at the rim, which is almost exactly in the middle of the pack among players who face at least six attempts at the rim per game, per NBA.com.
His .615 field-goal percentage is his worst since he was a Charlotte Bobcat in 2009-10, and his 8.8 rebounds per game are the fewest since that campaign as well.
With his performance and energy down, Chandler's remaining $29 million guaranteed through next season is beginning to appear like just another albatross on the books.
Player Grade: C+
To go along with the recurring theme, J.R. Smith is yet another Knick to have tailed off from last season to this one.
Coming off knee surgery in the offseason, he has posted a career-low .389 field-goal percentage, but has actually shot a better-than-career-average .374 from beyond the arc. His scoring has dipped from 18 points per game to just 13 in almost equal minutes.
The reigning sixth man of the year has actually started 11 of his 44 games but has been more beneficial to the team when off the floor altogether. He's posted a net rating of minus-3.1, and the team is a net positive with him off the floor.
Over his last 15 games, however, Smith has appeared to regain form. In that time, he has shot 46.4 percent from the field and 45 from the arc, scoring 16 while putting up three boards and three dimes. Though his 61 percent free-throw clip over the full season is alarming, to say the least.
Off-court issues played a prominent role in his tumultuous first half, but if his hot streak continues into the second half, the Knicks might be able to salvage a playoff berth with two bona fide scorers in the lineup.
Player Grade: C+
As Amar'e Stoudemire has transitioned full time into a complementary role, he has experienced no shortage of ups and downs. His PER of around 17 would have you believe he's been more productive than not in 2013-14, but his net rating of minus-10 would lead you to believe otherwise.
With him apparently healthy—he's been playing without a minutes restriction through much of the first half—he has mostly produced positively on the offensive end. He has posted a true shooting percentage over 57 percent and has scored 18.5 points over a normalized 36 minutes.
Defensively, as has been the case over his career, STAT has been an abomination. It's not necessarily fair to call it an effort issue, because he's never been one to mail it in on the floor, but he just doesn't know how to play a lick of defense.
The team is allowing four points less per 100 possessions with him on the bench. Per 82games, his center counterparts post a higher PER than him, equating to a negative net mark.
After a brutally slow start—he was shooting just 44 percent in mid-November—Stoudemire has, at times, looked like a legit second scoring option for New York. He has had four 20-point games and has shot over 60 percent in 17 contests.
His rebounding percentage numbers are just a shade below his career averages. All in all, Stoudemire's performances this year are essentially what to expect from him until he hangs up the jersey for the final time: volume scoring. And not a whole lot else.
There's a role for him on a contending team; the Knicks just aren't one.
Player Grade: B
Pablo Prigioni missed about a month with a toe injury, but for a second straight season, he is the Knicks' best all-around point guard on the roster.
At 36, he doesn't bring the quickness and scoring ability you'd traditionally request from a point man, but when Felton is the starter, you take whatever else you can get. And he has done wonders for the Knicks on both ends since he made the move to the NBA last season.
He has averaged a modest 20 minutes per game and has added six assists and four rebounds per 36 minutes. He has continued his tremendous three-point shooting in his second NBA season, drilling over 40 percent of his treys this year.
There's no better example of an on/off stat wizard than Prigioni. The team's offensive efficiency improves with him on the floor, while the defense improves by six points per 100 possessions, per Basketball-Reference. If that's not a representation of how much he improves this flawed Knicks roster, then I'm not sure what is.
He has displayed a proficiency at moving the ball, which is imperative in a Carmelo Anthony-centric offense. Despite his age and lack of agility, he has been the Knicks' most trustworthy defender at the point.
It's not clear how many more minutes Prigioni can sustain at this late stage of his pro career, but Mike Woodson would be wise to get everything he can out of him if the team hopes to make some sort of late-season push.
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Player Grade: B+
For a rookie under Mike Woodson—who is infamous for not playing rookies—Tim Hardaway Jr. has been all the Knicks could have hoped for when they selected him 24th overall.
With Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith ahead of him on the depth chart to start the season, Hardaway had his work cut out just to simply crack the rotation. But as the first half of the season has come to a close, the 21-year-old is a prime part of Woodson's rotation, averaging 30 minutes over his last 10 games.
He's fourth among all rookies in scoring at 9.2 points per game, second in field-goal percentage, first in three-point shooting and fourth in free-throw percentage. He has already logged three 20-point games in his first half-season in the league.
Defensively, the Michigan product is still a work-in-progress, and his lack of rebounding expertise may be the only thing that sets him apart from Smith right now. If Hardaway goes on to develop even half the defensive potential that Shumpert packs, he could be looking at an All-Star future.
Player Grade: B+
When Kenyon Martin is on the floor, he's generally a positive contributor. But the issue is just that: staying on the hardwood.
He's been one of the Knicks' best defenders this season, which is no surprise from the 14-year vet. The team's defense improves by a whopping eight points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, according to Basketball-Reference.
Offensively, he's given New York about everything you can expect from a 36-year-old big man. He's playing just under 20 minutes per game and averaging eight points per 36 minutes while shooting above 50 percent from the field.
If there's one complaint about his play this season, it's the alarming rate of 4.8 fouls per 36 minutes, but one could argue that's part of the elder statesman's job description.
For the league minimum salary, there's not much else New York could ask from Martin—except for healthier ankles, but that's the risk you take when assigning a prime role to a player on the verge of retirement.
Metta World Peace
Player Grade: D+
For a short time at the beginning of the season, the Metta World Peace signing seemed like one of the bargain deals of the summer. The 34-year-old was exerting himself on both ends and knocking down some three-pointers—the two things that the Knicks were expecting of him when they brought him on.
As the team soon found out, that spurt of optimism was short-lived. After his performance tailed off and his knees started to flare up, the minutes began to dwindle. These days, Mike Woodson has relegated the veteran to the same end-of-the-bench role as neophytes like Cole Aldrich and Toure' Murry.
He has appeared in just 28 contests for his hometown Knicks, averaging under 14 minutes per. He has shot 40 percent from the field and 32 percent from the arc, which are both insufficient marks. His defense, while a rotation member early on, hardly resembled that of Ron Artest in the mid-2000s.
He has continued to handle his diminished role about as well as you can ask from a player coming off his prime and who expected to contribute as recently as last November. He just may not have enough left in the tank, after 33,000 combined playoff and regular-season minutes, to be an everyday NBA player.
Player Grade: C
Once a player-coach relationship is fractured, especially when dealing with a veteran, very seldom will the relationship improve again. After a brief stint as starting point guard after overlapping injuries to Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni, Beno Udrih and Mike Woodson's working relationship ceased. The guard told Roger Rubin of the New York Daily News:
“It’s easy to point fingers when the team loses. But it comes down to we are a team, we lose together,” Udrih said. “No matter who makes a mistake or who doesn’t, it’s still a team loss. So I think all of this stuff should be kept out of the media and not call certain people out.”
He didn’t want to mention Woodson by name but as he discussed what he thought was a lack of communication he used the phrase “don’t just be a coach, be a person.”
Woodson was especially critical of Udrih’s errors after a loss to the Wizards and those kinds of events, Udrih said, are affecting him. “I kind of feel like when I do the right thing, it’s not the right thing in some people’s eyes,” he said. “Sometimes I have a feeling like when I do a mistake, they have a feeling that I’m making the mistake on purpose. As weird as it sounds, that’s how I feel.
“You can point fingers at me as much as you can, but if things don’t work it’s not one person’s fault,” he added.
Per KnicksNow.com, Udrih was initially sold on the idea of New York by Woodson's dual-point guard lineups that were of frequent use last season. As the season moved forward and the coach shunned those productive lineups in favor of bigger, Andrea Bargnani-filled futile ones, Udrih grew testier.
While on the floor, his defense in the pick-and-roll was comparable to Felton's, which is never a good thing. He managed to shoot 43 percent from behind the arc, which could serve the Knicks well in a reserve role. But after requesting a trade in January, according to ESPN New York, Udrih is a mere afterthought in the rotation.
He hasn't logged a single minute since Jan. 24, which immediately followed the trade request.
End of the Bench
Jeremy Tyler: A-
We're still in the beginning stages of the Jeremy Tyler experience in New York, but all signs are pointing toward something worth watching.
Tyler is just 22 and has brought much-needed energy on both ends. He's only averaged 14 minutes per game over his last 10, but he has shot 52 percent and grabbed five boards on average. His jump shot extends to the mid-range, and he's shown an ability to hold his own on defense against bigs like Al Jefferson and DeMarcus Cousins.
He is under contract with the Knicks next year for an unguaranteed minimum salary.
Toure' Murry: B
Toure' Murry seems to have several tools that are needed from a reserve guard—good size, quick hands, quick feet, an ability to get to the basket—but under Mike Woodson, the minutes just haven't been there for the rookie.
He has performed well in brief stints of playing time, primarily while guards Ray Felton and Pablo Prigioni were both sidelined. Per 36 minutes, he has averaged 13 points, five assists and five rebounds, but he has averaged just 7.6 minutes per contest.
Cole Aldrich: D
Cole Aldrich hasn't gotten an extended look with the Knicks, but in his minimal burn, he hasn't displayed anything to warrant one.
He has scored 20 points this season on 7-of-17 shooting and pulled down two rebounds per game in 4.5 minutes per. He has appeared in just 25 games.