If the New York Knicks spent the All-Star Break getting some rest and relaxation, someone forgot to wake them up. The second half of the Knicks’ season started in disastrous fashion last Wednesday against Indiana, and the losing streak reached four on Friday when the Knicks faltered in crunch time against the Toronto Raptors. Thankfully, the Philadelphia 76ers and their putrid offense came to town to cap off the weekend, and the Knicks held on for a much-needed win. Before we look ahead at the upcoming week, let’s see how the past three contests affected our Knicks Player Power Rankings, which debuted last week with a ranking based on the first half of the season.
1. Carmelo Anthony (Last: 1) – It’s going to take a bigger losing streak, injury or truly dreadful individual few weeks for ‘Melo to get knocked off this perch. It’s really not worth really analyzing anyone’s performance against Indiana because it was an all-around catastrophe. In the last two games, Anthony averaged 30.5 points. Against Toronto, Anthony was the main guy on the final three important possessions, and I personally think he made the right play on all of them despite some criticism that’s been levied his way since. His pass to Tyson Chandler was a beautiful quick look, and if Chandler makes both free throws the Knicks might win. Additionally, ‘Melo found a wide-open Ray Felton, who clanked his 3-point attempt. Then, with the game on the line, Anthony missed a tough pull up three that would have tied the game. Still, the ball was in Melo’s hands down the stretch and he made good plays each time – despite the result not following suit. While Anthony struggled from the field against Philly on Sunday, he did get to the line 18 times, which is a great sign that we’d like to see happen more often.
2. Tyson Chandler (Last: 2) – Chandler actually somehow posted a double-double in Indiana during that disgusting mess, which should be enough to make him team captain, the highest paid player in the league and given a jersey retirement ceremony sometime in the future. While he didn’t reach double figures in points against Toronto or Philly, we’ll take the eight combined blocks from those two games. If anyone on this team has the capability of leading this team out of its funk on emotion and attitude alone, it’s definitely Chandler.
3. Amar’e Stoudemire (Last: 5) – Sunday’s performance by Amar’e was pretty special. For all the concern about Stoudemire coming off the bench and disrupting things, how’s a 22-minute, 22 points on 9-of-10 shooting, +10 for you? Can’t really draw up a game off the bench any better than that. The efficient shooting has been a godsend; it’s exactly what you want out of your top bench player. Amar’e is quietly putting together a really good individual season (his PER of 22.00 is 17th best in the league), and we’d like to think that this will translate into more wins, and soon. Mike Woodson has said he likes bringing Stoudemire off the bench, but I’m starting to wonder if you have to start giving him more minutes or consider inserting him in the top five.
4. J.R. Smith (Last: 4) – Smith’s ejection in Indiana was about as unexpected as Daniel Day-Lewis winning Best Actor (a robust zero on the Surprise Meter). The fact that he didn’t go down in the rankings probably says more about how poorly the middle to bottom of this roster is playing right now than it does positively about Smith – although he was quite clutch in the fourth quarter on Sunday against the Sixers, making all three of his 3s in the final frame. We also like seeing 24 shot attempts in the past two games (69 minutes played).
5. Raymond Felton (Last: 3) – Felton struggled shooting in these past three games, and it seems like whenever he has a rough time putting the ball in the hole, the Knicks struggle. In that was, Felton is really often times this team’s X-factor. The assist numbers remain low (as they do on the entire team for that matter), but Felton helps the team offset that with keeping the turnovers down as well; Ray turned the ball over just four times in the past three games.
6. Steve Novak (Last: 7) – I know we all believe that Novak is a waste if he’s not making multiple threes, but he deserves a little bit more credit than that. How’s this: Novak is a combined +29 in his last two games, playing 31 minutes in that span. Plus/minus isn’t a perfect stat, but it’s hard to spin that in a negative manner, no?
7. Jason Kidd (Last: 6) – Kidd’s shooting remains a really legitimate concern, but you like that he’s been able to chip in in some other ways (16 total rebounds in the past two games). Still, he went just 3-of-14 in the past three games and is shooting 19% in the last five games overall, lowlighted by an 0-for-6 from downtown output against the Sixers. Kidd simply needs to find the bottom of the net from the perimeter – that was such a huge part of this team’s success in the beginning of the season.
8. Pablo Prigioni (Last: 8) – Like Novak, Prigioni’s plus/minus against Philly was eye-opening: +13 in as many minutes. he also led the team in assists on Sunday with five. If anything, Prigioni has been reliable and consistent this season. Personally, I’d rather have Prigioni play 12-15 minutes a game (8-10 in the playoffs) than Luke Ridnour, who was rumored to be a target of the team at the trade deadline.
9. Iman Shumpert (Last: 10) – I thought the Knicks traded Ronnie Brewer? Who’s this guy that’s starting at the 3, playing about 20 minutes, shooting 14% and playing good enough defense? It’s not panic time for Shumpert, who is still arguably in pre-season or training camp or whatever, but it’s been a rough comeback so far. I still think Mike Woodson has to find a way to get Shumpert some minutes at the 1 and 2 with bench units – the Knicks can really use some athleticism in the back court.
10. Chris Copeland (Last: 12) – Yes, this is based off of one game, in absolute garbage time. Copeland actually helped the Knicks win the fourth quarter against the Pacers, 25-23, with 13 points in 10 minutes. When the bench is struggling to score, which has happened quite often in the past 25 games or so, why not give Copeland a little run?
11. Kurt Thomas (Last: 11) – As the rotation gets smaller as we enter the latter parts of the season, Thomas is becoming an emergency big man. That role will be even further diminished when Kenyon Martin starts getting some playing time, which is expected to happen this Wednesday against Golden State.
12. Rasheed Wallace (Last: 9) – This team is going to be hysterical if Kenyon Martin is still on the roster when Rasheed Wallace comes back. I hope they share the floor together at some point. I would not want to be the guard who drives to the lane with those two standing in the vicinity, though.
13. James White (Last: 14) – Didn’t play in the last three games since our rankings.
14. Marcus Camby (Last: 15) – Hopefully will get soon healthy. Knicks could use the rebounding help, which Camby has actually been fine at in his very limited minutes this year.
Not ranked – Kenyon Martin – We’re awaiting Martin’s Knicks debut. The crowd has already chanted his name, which is nice.