The New York Knicks are 3-13. There are a lot of reasons for this. While it’s both accurate and popular to heap blame on the broad shoulders of head coach Mike Woodson, the Knicks’ players themselves aren’t exactly excelling right now either. Sixteen games is a legitimate sample size – we’re approaching the quarter pole of the season – and there are many ways to digest and break down how these 16 games have yielded just three measly victories. Let’s analyze how this garbage fire of a season has gone so far by looking at the performance of each individual Knick and deduce, simply, if the player is having a good season, or not.
Metta World Peace
It was probably a wide range of expectations for Metta amongst the Knicks fanbase and basketball observers, but I think most thought he would have a bigger impact than he’s had thus far. It seemed like he’d be a good fit off the bench as a “3 and D” winger, but injuries, an unfortunate death in the family and the wonder of Woodson’s rotations have kept Metta from finding his niche. He’s averaging just over 17 minutes a game. In the time he has played, World Peace hasn’t shot the ball well at all – his 36.1% overall shooting, 42% true shooting percentage and 25.7% from 3-point range are all career worsts by a pretty significant margin. His 107 defensive rating is the second worst of his career, although the Knicks are worse on defense without him on the floor, according to 82games.com. And he hasn’t passed the eye-test either. World Peace looks skittish with the ball, often driving into crowded lanes or forcing up bad shots in transition. It’s been a slog.
Is Metta World Peace having a good season? No.
Cole Aldrich and Toure Murry
Big Ole Cole has played in just five games, logging just 14 minutes. Murry has played four and 11, respectively. Murry is the newest Knicks end-of-the-bencher that could save the season if only given a chance. I like rooting for these types of guys too, but I’d also like, at some point, to root for a team that doesn’t constantly need rescuing from unknown 15th man. Either way, if we were grading these guys fairly we’d give them an incomplete, but life is not fair. When I played JV basketball as a sophomore in high school, I was kind of the Cole Aldrich of my team. And if I was being honest with myself, I would not say I was having a good season.
So, are Cole Aldrich and Toure Murry having good seasons? No.
Welcome to Bizarro Knicks World, where Andrea Bargnani is one of the least-reviled players on the team. I guess a 3-13 record will flip everything on its ear, which is what’s happened with Bargnani in the court of public fan opinion. When you look at the raw, traditional numbers, things look good on the surface. He’s shooting the second-highest percentage of his career, averaging a very solid 15.3 points a night and is pulling down an average of 5.4 rebounds. Yes, he’s been playing the bulk of his minutes at center recently since Tyson Chandler went down, and you’d like a 7-foot center to rebound more, but it’s unfair to ask Bargs to do things he’s not wired to do. Actually, he’s played quite okay as a center, posting a 17.8 PER when playing the 5, according to 82games.com. But his defense is still an issue (outside of randomly becoming one of the league’s 15-or-so best shot blockers). The Knicks allow 114.7 points per 48 minutes when he’s on the court, and just 103.6 when he sits. You have to think that teams are going to start putting him in pick-and-roll situations more and more often instead of trying to post him up, where he’s actually fared very well in 1-v-1 situations. Personally, I would cut his minutes when Tyson Chandler returns, and relegate him to a bench role where he can become a much-needed offensive boost.
Is Andrea Bargnani having a good season? Ostensibly, yes. This is weird.
K-Mart was supposed to be on a minutes restriction this season, was supposed to alternate games with Amar’e Stoudemire like a group of friends playing FIFA, all in the name of keeping him healthy and available to produce in the playoffs. The Knicks’ terrible start to the season forced them to abandon that silly plan, and so Martin has averaged just about 18 minutes a game thus far. His on court/off court numbers are favorable – the Knicks both score and defend better with him on the floor than with him on the bench, but he’s likely not durable enough to stretch out to too many more minutes a night. While the Knicks are indeed in desperate times, they carry a risk by doling out a lot of minutes to him. They are already paper-thin at center, and remain so even when Tyson Chandler comes back. But so far, I think it’s fair to say that K-Mart has done what’s asked of him.
Is Kenyon Martin having a good season? Yes.
Apparently Mike Woodson seems to think so! It’s worth remembering that Smith is coming off offseason knee surgery, and that it can take some time for a player to get back to their peak from that. But so far, Smith is shooting a career low, and absolutely dismal, 33% from the field. Despite the poor shooting, he’s still averaging nearly 13 attempts a game and a career-high 6.5 a game from deep. Add in that he gets to the line just twice a game (last season he got there nearly four times a night), and it’s plain to see that J.R. is sort of just hanging around the perimeter and bricking jumpshots while on offense. Meanwhile, his usage rate of 22.9 continues to be the second highest on the team, which is unmerited. Defensively, the team impact when J.R. is on and off the court is negligent, but according to 82games.com, Smith keeps getting vastly outplayed by his positional counterpart. When Smith plays shooting guard, his opponent plays at a PER of 15.3. This one is easy.
Is J.R. Smith having a good season? No. Goodness, no.
His PER is 7.6. His individual offensive rating is 82; his defensive rating is 110. He’s rebounding at the worst rate of his career. He’s shooting just 45%, which for him, is pretty terrible. He plays just 14 minutes, yet averages over a turnover per game – his turnovers per 36 minutes is a career worst 3.3. These are all statistics, and they are all bad. But you’re better off just looking at paper computer screens and numbers, because the eye test may turn you blind.
Is Amar’e Stoudemire having a good season? No.
Pablo’s case this season is an interesting one. There’s a near-universal movement for him to play more, but according to NBA.com, three of the top four 5-man lineups that Prigioni has been a part of have poor net ratings (-19.0, -35.8, -37.1). The ball seemingly always moves better when Prigioni is on the floor, but the Knicks have actually made more assisted field goals when he’s been on the bench (56%) than when he’s been on the floor (49%), which likely points to a larger team issue of overall efficiency and shot making. Might the “Just play Pablo Prigioni!” movement be losing a little of its validity? It’s not likely, given that many of these stats (especially the 5-man unites) are based on some smaller sample sizes. One thing he’s done very well this season is shoot the ball, and with a very miniscule usage rate, a case can be made that Prigioni should both play more and see more of the ball.
Is Pablo Prigioni having a good season? No, but…
Tim Hardaway, Jr.
Just 16 games into his career, Hardaway is shooting 40% from deep in catch-and-shoot situations, per NBA.com, which is a perfect way for a rookie to earn himself some minutes. He’s still very much a work in progress on the defensive end, and can get a little too trigger-happy at times, but he often brings the Knicks to life when he enters the game. With J.R. Smith struggling so much, it wouldn’t kill Mike Woodson to give him a little bump in playing time. It’s for the long-term benefit of the franchise that Hardaway becomes a more well-rounded, contributing player.
Is Tim Hardaway, Jr. having a good season? Yes, for a rookie.
So much for Udrih “replacing” Jason Kidd. It wasn’t prudent to think that was really going to happen, since Kidd is a hall-of-famer who at age 40 still thought the game as well as anyone probably ever has, but Udrih has definitely been a disappointment. He’s showed some flashes, especially when given a lot of playing time against the Pacers a few weeks back, but overall has yet to make a consistent positive impact. His -12.1 net rating per 100 possessions is among the team’s worst for players that actually play – only Hardaway and Stoudemire are lower.
Is Beno Udrih having a good season? No.
In the three games he played in, the Knicks’ won one of those games. That’s not bad!
Is Tyson Chandler having a good season? Well, breaking your leg sucks, so no. But, yes, because the Knicks are atrocious without him.
There’s an ongoing scuffle between the Knicks fanbase’s love for Iman Shumpert and a perceived hatred of Iman Shumpert by the Knicks franchise and brain trust. I don’t know if the Knicks hate Iman Shumpert, because I do not personally know or talk to the people who run the Knicks. I do believe, however, that he’s had a rough season, and I think both he and the coaching staff/front office are to blame. He has never registered a very good PER, but he’s so far playing to a career-low 10.7 (although it’s not far from his career average of 11.1) Shumpert has a usage rate of just 12.6, which is far lower than his co-SG/SF hybrid teammates J.R. Smith and Tim Hardaway, Jr, but his shooting numbers are down from last season’s across the board. Meanwhile, he is playing nearly 30 minutes a game, which is a lot for a player that people seem to think the coach hates. Now, I know there are specific instances that stand out, like Sunday’s YELLGATE incident and ensuing “benching” (which was, in my opinion, a total myth), but it’s not like Shumpert isn’t playing. He is playing, he just isn’t being used very efficiently, or perhaps properly. It’s kind of a chicken-or-the-egg type thing, no? How, exactly, do you get Iman Shumpert more involved? For better or worse, the Knicks’ offense is isolation-heavy, and Shumpert hasn’t proven to be a great 1-on-1 scorer. Additionally, he’s shooting just 33.1% in catch-and-shoot situations, per NBA.com, so he hasn’t been great at hanging around the perimeter and waiting for the ball to swing to him. Still, the team scores and defends better, overall, when he’s on the court. Perhaps no player better encapsulates the frustrating nature of these Knicks than Shumpert.
Is Iman Shumpert having a good season? No, but why that’s the case is a bit of a pickle.
Like many Knicks this season, Felton is by many measures having one of the worst seasons of his career. With Felton, specifically, it’s fair to wonder if we’re just seeing the beginning of the downside of his career, where he may not be a viable starting point guard anymore. The league, especially the point guard position, is getting faster and more dynamic. Felton can still hold his own, as evidenced by last season, but so far there hasn’t been much carry over (perhaps his nagging injuries have something to do with that). His 11.6 PER is a career-worst by far. He’s turning the ball over at a high clip for him, and last season’s padlock security of the ball was one of the reasons the Knicks had one of the best offenses in the league. The Knicks are struggling from deep this season, and Felton is a big part of that, shooting a hideous 25% from 3-point range as opposed to last year’s 36%.
Is Raymond Felton having a good season? No.
As usual, Anthony’s raw, per-game numbers are good. He’s averaging over 26 points a night, and the thing that’s been most impressive is his rebounding. For the first time in his career, Anthony is nearly averaging a double-double at 9.9 rebounds per game. According to basketball-reference.com, he’s grabbing 22.6% of available defensive rebounds, by far a career-high, so it’s not JUST that he’s grabbing a lot of his own short-range misses, which he is wont to do. Nobody is going to posit that Melo is a great defender, but it’s interesting to note that, according to 82games.com, the Knicks allow 108.4 points per-48 minutes when Anthony is on the floor (which isn’t very good), but a staggering 120 when he’s on the bench. Anthony has played a lot of minutes, so the sample size of him on the bench is smaller, but it’s not like the Knicks suddenly become a defensive juggernaut when he sits. Where he’s lagged behind is in his shooting efficiency, his late-game clutch situations and most importantly, wins. Fair or not, when you’re the star of a team, and said team is 3-13, you’re going to get some criticism.
Is Carmelo Anthony having a good season? Yes, but it hasn’t translated into wins.
Ha! This deserves its own column, but I think we know the answer to that.