Well, the All-Star break is the unofficial midway point of the NBA season, so it’s time for the report card. Let’s get straight to it, here are the grades-
PG Jeremy Lin: A
Does he turn over the ball too much? Yes, he does. But let’s be honest here. He could turn over the ball ten times a game. As long as he keeps dishing out the assists and the Knicks keep winning, it gets a pass. This man literally came out of nowhere and saved the Knicks season on February 4th vs. the New Jersey Nets. The Knicks have gone 9-3 since he first received some serious minutes, and that includes a seven game winning streak over teams such as the Lakers, Timberwolves, and Jazz as well as a win over the defending champion Dallas Mavericks. The man has taken New York and the league by storm and has performed well in just about every game except for the game vs. the Heat, where he was completely gassed. With six days of rest (He barely played in the Shining Stars game) before the Wednesday game vs. the Cavaliers and an additional four days of rest before the Sunday showcase game in Boston, expect Lin to be well rested and in vintage form.
SG Landry Fields: B
If there is one player who endured a brutal stretch this year (and partially last year after the addition of Carmelo), it has to be Fields. For nine straight games this season, Fields recorded nine or less points. He was brutal to watch and not the same man who was on the “All-Rookie 1st team” last season. However, on January 18 vs. the Suns, everything changed. Landry has scored 10+ points in 15 of 22 games. He has regained the confidence he lost and has really looked like the Landry Fields we’ve known and loved. However, he’s lost his ability to hit the outside shot as he’s shooting 26% from three compared to 39% last season. He also hasn’t been making his free throws, as he’s only made 60% of his shots from the charity stripe. If Fields can regain his stroke from beyond the line and make his free throws, he might become one of the most complete twos in the league.
SF Carmelo Anthony: C+
Carmelo, to say the least, has had an interesting season. It’s difficult to grade him. He shoots too much. He was the point-forward for quite a while. He was the only guy who could make shots on this team at one time. He’s been nicked by injuries. Carmelo Anthony has had six games where he has scored 30+ points, but only has had seven games where he has shot better than 45% (his career average) from the field. That, of course, excludes the Utah Jazz game where he injured his groin considering he only played about six minutes in that game. This is a problem, but one that may be cured with the addition of J.R. Smith and the emergences of Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak. Carmelo doesn’t have to be the one to take the three anymore because he’s not the only one who can make it now. So while I gave him a C+, take it with a grain of salt due to the numerous situations I discussed. But one quick thing to note, Carmelo has averaged 15 ppg and is averaging 38% from the field since he came back from injury/Lin has been the starting PG but has only taken three 3s. If there is anybody to keep an eye on for the rest of the season, it’s Carmelo.
PF Amar’e Stoudemire: D
If you’ve been following me on Twitter or have seen some of my pieces here, you know what my thoughts on Amar’e are this season: He’s been a shell of his former self. He is not the same Amar’e Stoudemire who had a legitimate case to be MVP last season and once was able to dunk and score under the basket all the time. Ever since his back issues vs. the Celtics in the playoffs, Amar’e has changed. He hasn’t been dunking what he once was able to dunk 24/7. The shots from the field haven’t been falling. He’s been arguing calls more than he has been playing defense. It’s really sad that I’m about to say to this but if Amar’e isn’t scoring in the post or scoring at all, he’s crippling the team. In fact, there’s been plenty of times this season where Jared Jeffries, despite his inability to score, has contributed more to this team just on defense than Amar’e has on both offense and defense. Amar’e is a career 53% shooter from the field. How many games has he shot that or better? About nine games. He averaged about 25 points per game last season. How many games has he scored 25 points or more? Four games. I thought this was because of a lack of a Point Guard but even with Lin, nothing much has changed. In the seven games that Lin has been the starting PG, Amar’e has only scored more than 20 points just twice. And keep in mind, this has all been occurring in Mike D’Antoni’s system, the system Amar’e has thrived in just about his entire career. Unless someone can direct him to the fountain of youth, I don’t think you’ll see the Amar’e of last season anytime soon.
C Tyson Chandler: A
I don’t think there’s a bigger fan of Tyson Chandler than I am. In fact, I thought long and hard about whether to give him an A+ but unfortunately, I couldn’t due to his technical foul issues. Tyson has nine technicals already, and is only four away from a one game suspension. This wouldn’t be a big deal if the Knicks had a real backup center but they don’t. If he’s out for one game, the Knicks will probably be horrid defensively for that game. Besides that, Tyson has been absolutely flawless. He has been worth his contract and more. I personally think he was a snubbed all-star and I personally think he should be a legitimate candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. The Knicks are currently 12th in opponent points allowed, and are 7th in defensive efficiency. Last year, the Knicks were 21st in defensive efficiency. That is a drastic improvement in defense, and you have to remember, the Knicks play an up-tempo system. That’s very impressive. Also, don’t forget, Tyson is contributing 12 points a game, grabs about 10 boards a game, and has a double-double in about 1/3 (11 games) of the games the Knicks have played. Except for the technicals, he has done everything humanly possible to help this team win, and that’s exactly what you want to see.
G Iman Shumpert: B+
Except for that one game in Memphis where he shot 5-20 from the field, Iman has had a pretty solid season. He’s been great on D, has shown some real hustle and fire, and hasn’t looked like a rookie at all. He’s exhibited some real confidence and has been turning some heads around, including mine. I thought the Knicks reached when they drafted him, but once again in back-to-back drafts, the Knicks made a fool out of everybody. The PG experiment failed but what would you expect? The guy is a swingman. I don’t have many complaints about him, except maybe the fact he’s been injury prone this season but so has everybody else this season. Iman can only go up from here and will be a very valuable player for the Knickerbockers for years to come. Oh, and he was completely snubbed regarding the Rising Stars Challenge. It was a crime he wasn’t involved.
SF Steve Novak: A+
Yes, you did not read that wrong. Steve Novak has received an A+. Is it too high? Yeah, it is. So why did I give it? Well, because when Amar’e and Carmelo were out, he was the man to step up and has been lighting it up from beyond the three point line day in and day out ever since. Ignore every game before February. Ignore every single one. Whenever he played, it was mainly garbage minutes. It’s hard to judge a player that way. So let’s take a look at February. He’s had seven games of 10+ points in only 11 games off the bench. He’s shot 38% or better from beyond the three point line in seven of 11 games. He lit up the 4th best defensive team (In terms of opponent points per game), the Dallas Mavericks, for 14 points in the fourth quarter. So yes, it might be ridiculous to give Steve Novak an A+ but you know what? He’s been just important to this team as Jeremy Lin has been if not more important.
PF Jared Jeffries: B
Don’t look at the box score. It does not do Jeffries any justice. He’s one of those guys where you may look at a box score and say “Oh, he’s terrible. He doesn’t contribute!” but trust me, he’s been as important as Tyson has been on the defensive end. During the seven game winning streak, Jeffries was tremendous defensively when he replaced Amar’e at PF. He defends his man well and is one of the very best at drawing charges and creating offensive fouls. People may get on him because he really can’t do much offensively but if there’s one guy who he’s been great off the bench, it’s Jeffries.
F Josh Harrellson/C Jerome Jordan/SG J.R. Smith/PG Baron Davis: N/A
We haven’t seen these guys enough to where I can give them a grade. Jorts played pretty well before he fractured his wrist, but I definitely want to see more before I can give a proper evaluation. But from what I’ve seen, he can be a Ryan Anderson Lite, in the sense that he’s a big Power Forward who can make some shots beyond the three point line. Jerome Jordan has only played garbage minutes. No way I can give an evaluation on that. J.R. Smith has only played four games. Not enough for a proper evaluation but from what I’ve seen, he could be a real difference maker in the playoffs. J.R. Smith is a real talent and someone I have really wanted to the Knicks to use their “exception” on for a while, so I’m very excited to see what J.R. can do for this team going forward. And Baron Davis, “the savior”, is finally on the court. He’s only played three games and he hasn’t looked good. It’s clear he’s rusty and slowly coming back but if he can even be half of the player he has been his career, he can be quite serviceable off the bench and give Jeremy Lin some much needed minutes to breath. Time will tell.
PG Mike Bibby/PG Toney Douglas/SG Bill Walker: F
Feed them to the sharks. Mike Bibby showed signs of life in Washington and Detroit but has been completely useless otherwise. Toney Douglas has been serviceable to this team the past two seasons but has been nothing short of a nightmare this season due to a multitude of factors: 1) Being told to play PG when he is nothing but a SG, 2) His shoulder injury, and 3) A lack of confidence. Unless this team suffers a few injuries, you won’t be seeing Toney Douglas in non-garbage time anytime soon. Bill Walker’s not horrible, it’s just he takes some incredibly dumb and unnecessary shots. He’s not the very worst option off the bench but he’s very far from being the very best. He’s scored the most in games the Knicks have usually lost. It’s not a fair correlation, but its somewhat true. He won’t see non-garbage minutes anytime soon unless Shumpert, J.R., and Novak get seriously injured.