Power Ranking Every Key NY Knicks Player Before Season's End

Ciaran Gowan@@CiaranGowanContributor IIIMarch 18, 2014

Power Ranking Every Key NY Knicks Player Before Season's End

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    The New York Knicks have had a disastrous season but have stepped their game up as we edge toward the end of the schedule.

    On the whole, performances across the roster have been disappointing outside of Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Tim Hardaway Jr., with some faring worse than others.

    We're going to take a deeper look into things, ranking everyone on the roster on their play this season and taking into account their entire body of work but using expectations and recent play as tiebreakers where necessary.

    Though there haven't been many impressive season-long performances, this will be a helpful exercise in determining who is responsible for both the poor overall record and the recent turnaround, so let's get started.

10. Raymond Felton

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    On and off the court, Raymond Felton has had a terrible year, establishing himself as the worst starting point guard in the NBA and being arrested on gun charges, which could culminate in a significant jail sentence.

    Focusing on his basketball struggles, he has carried over his nonexistent defense from last season, compounding it with poor play on the offensive end.

    Until very recently, he didn't provide any of the penetration, command and shooting that the offense requires from the point guard, which resulted in a stagnant and ugly unit.

    The team has felt the absence of Jason Kidd, particularly Felton, who has failed to run the offense without Kidd's leadership off the ball.

    New York is going to be in the market for an upgrade this summer and will more than likely spend their mini mid-level exception on a point guard, so Felton needs to leave an impression in these final games to stand a chance of returning as the starter in October.

9. Kenyon Martin

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    After impressing in 18 games in 2012-13, Kenyon Martin has missed plenty of time with injuries this season, and his play has declined when healthy.

    His absence and inconsequential performance have been key reasons for the struggles on defense, as the Knicks have no other defensive-minded bigs outside of him and Tyson Chandler.

    For a veteran's minimum signing, Martin's contributions have been fair, but expectations were high after he helped get New York back on track last year.

    On the whole, considering what we've come to expect from him, this has been a disappointing year for Martin, but he's hardly to blame for the Knicks' downfall. His effort has been fine, and the factors holding him back (namely age and health) have been out of his control.

    With that said, it would have been nice to see a player with as much experience as Martin help to steady the ship, as this team has lacked leadership after the departures of Jason Kidd, Rasheed Wallace, Kurt Thomas and Marcus Camby.

    The fact that their absences have affected the team so badly is a reflection on the poor leadership of the veterans who have remained on the roster, Martin included.

8. Andrea Bargnani

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    For the second time in his career, Andrea Bargnani has been the victim of false hopes. The Toronto Raptors initially valued him too high as a No. 1 overall pick, and the Knicks have followed suit by taking on his hefty contract in return for three future draft picks.

    In a vacuum, his play has been decent when healthy. He's been efficient on offense, averaging 16 points per 36 minutes and has done his part as a one-on-one defender.

    The problem is that when placed into the context of what New York gave up to get him (which essentially indicated that he was the missing piece of the puzzle), his play has been mediocre at best, because his style and skill set have proved not to fit with the rest of the team.

    With Kenyon Martin and Tyson Chandler struggling with injury, there has also been an increased emphasis on Bargnani to contribute as a help defender, something he's always struggled at as a small forward in a power forward's body.

    Bargnani has played as well as anyone could have expected, but his overall impact on the team both on and off the court has been negative, so it's difficult to place him any higher in these rankings.

7. Iman Shumpert

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    Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

    We've reached the point in Iman Shumpert's career where raw talent and athleticism need to be converted into consistent production, but instead we've seen his confidence falter as his play continues to decline from his rookie season.

    It's really not his fault. He's missed a lot of important basketball early in his career and is in a particularly bad situation for an unrefined young player, with trade threats coming down from ownership and no real playmakers around him on offense.

    Shumpert is the type of player who can only function offensively playing off othersthriving off spot-up jumpers and backdoor cutsso his game has suffered as a direct result of the Knicks' lack of consistent point guard play.

    Defensively, though, he has also failed to live up to his tag as a one-on-one stopper, and the blame for that falls on his shoulders. He certainly has the skill but continues to make basic mistakes that need to be ironed to reach his All-Defensive Team potential.

    The future may still be bright for Shumpert with Phil Jackson (who has previously worked with the two greatest shooting guards of all time, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant) at the helm, but there's no denying that these have been a bad few months for him.

6. J.R. Smith

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    All things considered, J.R. Smith has been the Knicks' biggest disappointment this season after inking his new contract, but he does deserve some credit for improving his play these last two months.

    Though there's no excuse for poor shot selection, suspensions and immaturity, it must be remembered that he came into the season off an injury, which contributed to his poor play early on.

    On the year in its entirety, he is averaging 13.3 points on less than 40 percent shooting, but he has upped those numbers to 15.9 points on 47 percent shooting in March, despite playing with a mask.

    Smith is one of the main culprits for the Knicks' poor record but has also been one of the key contributors in the turnaround, which confirms what we thought about him going into the seasonthat he is the team's biggest X-factor.

    Early in the season, New York was probably regretting its investment in Smith, but he if he can carry this play forward now that his knees are healthy, it could turn out to be a smart signing.

5. Pablo Prigioni

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    Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

    An old, unathletic player like Pablo Prigioni can only contribute so much to a team, but he's done his part this season, while others have done less with more.

    He is one of the few Knicks who values ball movement over isolation play, which has made him one of the team's most effective passers and efficient shooters.

    Though his basic stats won't blow you away, he leads the Knicks with a 129 offensive rating and ranks third with 2.9 win shares on the season, per Basketball-Reference, indicating that he makes those around him better when he's on the floor.

    It's curious that Mike Woodson hasn't given him more burn with Raymond Felton failing to produce, but in the minutes he has played, there's no doubt that Prigioni has been one of the team's best players in terms of effort and decision making.

    Prigioni does occasionally take his pass-first mentality too far when he gives up on open jumpers, but it would be much less of an issue if those he created for knocked down the open jumpers that he gives them.

    Overall, though, he's been one of the Knicks' most consistent and well-rounded players, doing his part on both ends and playing with a high basketball IQ.

4. Tyson Chandler

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    After earning Defensive Player of the Year and All-Defensive honors in his first two seasons in New York, Tyson Chandler is having his worst season since joining the franchise.

    Injuries have held him back more than usual this season, to the point where he'll likely end the year having played less games than he has since his season with the Charlotte Bobcats.

    Still, he is worthy of a top-four ranking for his play this year, still averaging almost a double-double and contributing more than anyone else on the defensive end.

    Chandler will be lucky to make the All-Defensive Second Team this season but has been made to look worse by the lack of help around him, particularly on the perimeter.

    Offensively, he remains efficient, even if his scoring and field-goal percentage numbers are down, and his rebounding is stout, as it should be for a player of his height.

    On the whole, this season has been a reminder that Chandler is an aging 7-footer, which is never a good thing to be in the NBA, but he remains one of the league's better starting centers regardless.

3. Amar'e Stoudemire

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    Amar'e Stoudemire continues to excel in the post-superstardom stage of his career and would be one of the league's premier bench players if not for his monster salary.

    Surprisingly little has been made of STAT's impressive season, in which he's put up All-Star-level per-36 minute numbers of 18.8 points and eight rebounds on 53 percent shooting with an 18.32 player efficiency rating, per ESPN.com.

    Mike Woodson's decision to move Stoudemire to the starting lineup has coincided with a 6-1 run for the Knicks, in which STAT has been the team's best player outside of Carmelo Anthony.

    If the Knicks have any chance of making the postseason, they'll need more of the same from Stoudemire, who has the chance to make amends for the time he's missed in prior years by coming up big when it matters most.

    Whatever happens, the way he has bounced back from injury this season has been admirable. It marks his return to being one of the franchise's best and most important players, even if he's still overpaid.

2. Tim Hardaway Jr.

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    After being drafted at No. 24 overall, Tim Hardaway Jr. has proved he should have been a lottery pick, ranking third in NBA.com's rookie ladder.

    He will almost certainly earn first-team All-Rookie honors this season, and they are well-deserved. He's been one of the best scorers in the draft class, leading all rookies besides Pero Antic in three-point percentage.

    With only one first-round pick in the next three years, it was essential that the Knicks hit with Hardaway, and they did exactly that, unearthing a worthy building block for the franchise moving forward.

    Outside of Carmelo Anthony, Hardaway has been the team's best offensive player, continuing to produce despite the turmoil around him. His shooting and athleticism make him a difficult matchup for opposing guards.

    There's still plenty for Hardaway to work on defensively and in other aspects of his offensive game, but he's exceeded all expectations for his rookie season and appears set for a long, successful career.

1. Carmelo Anthony

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    Carmelo Anthony was already one of the most talented players in the history of the Knicks, and he's quickly getting the hardware and records to prove it after a scoring title last season and a record-setting 62-point night this season.

    If not for the poor play of his teammates, Melo would likely be a legitimate MVP candidate this season, scoring at the same rate he did in 2012-13 with improved defense, rebounding and passing while playing the most minutes per game of his career.

    Melo's 25.0 PER is the highest of his career and ranks him sixth amongst players who've appeared in at least 50 games this season, which is a fairly accurate summary of where he is. He's playing the best basketball we've ever seen from him and has confirmed his status as a truly elite player.

    The 2013-14 season threatens to be the first year that he misses the playoffs, but if he can carry this team into the postseason against all odds, this will be a remarkable campaign for him.

    New York shouldn't hesitate to do everything in its power to keep Anthony in orange and blue this summer, because he's a worthy player to build around. Given just a reasonable supporting cast, he can get this franchise back on track.