A week ago, the Knicks were 8-18 and entering Christmas Week with three winnable games out of the four they were to play. Because this is the 2013-14 season and the Knicks are pretty terrible at basketball, they won just one of them. And that lone victory, a 103-98 win over the Orlando Magic, came with a heavy price. Carmelo Anthony sprained his ankle in the middle of the third quarter, hasn’t played since, and the Knicks have dropped all three games in his absence. The Christmas Day loss to Oklahoma City was predictable – the Knicks probably would have lost with Anthony in the lineup – but the Knicks followed that up with back-to-back losses to the Toronto Raptors, whose front office would rather lose games this season than win them. The Knicks probably don’t even deserve to be ranked, but professional we must remain!
1. Carmelo Anthony (Last: 1) - Remember when Peyton Manning missed an entire season and the Indianapolis Colts looked like a semi-professional football team in his absence? The contrast isn’t quite as stark, but Carmelo keeps the top spot in the rankings due to the same principle. Opinions vary on whether the Knicks should extend Anthony to a maximum contract, whether you can with with him as the focal point of your team, etc., but there is really no logical case to be made that he’s not the best player on this current Knicks team. Without him they might be the worst team in the league. Before injuring himself, he had 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting against Orlando. His 3-pointer was coming around quite nicely before the injury (10-of-17 in his last three games).
2. Tim Hardaway, Jr. (Last: 2) - Albeit in losses, Hardaway, Jr. has reached double figures in the Knicks’ last three games. He’s cooling down a bit from distance, which is to be expected especially for a rookie as we reach the middle part of the season, but he’s still shooting 42% from deep for the season. The Knicks should find him in the right corner a bit more; per NBA.com, he’s made 9 of his 17 attempts from the right corner this season for a robust 53%.
3. Tyson Chandler (Last: 3) - I’m not sure how Chandler only managed to grab two rebounds total in 27 minutes against the Raptors on Saturday night, but that hindered him from moving up in the rankings. He certainly won’t move down though, either; he gave a spirited season-high 39 minutes in Orlando with a double-double (10 pts, 13 rebs) and did score 16 points in the Saturday loss to the Raptors. He’s likely still rounding into shape, but it’s interesting to note that Chandler’s shooting 60.4% at the rim this season, his lowest mark in that area since the 2008-09 season. That speaks to the Knicks’ continued inability to get Chandler – or anyone, for that matter – consistent easy looks.
4. Pablo Prigioni (Last: 4) - Please return, Pablo.
5. Beno Udrih (Last: 6) - Beno’s clutch free throws against Orlando, in a game he was otherwise dreadful in, and his first double-double as a Knick (15 points, 10 assists on Friday against Toronto) is enough to merit a slight bump in the rankings. We’re not asking much here of our Knicks right now, folks.
6. Andrea Bargnani (Last: 7) - Buon Natale, Andrea! Our gift to you is a one-spot jump in the rankings, and that’s only because everyone below you is either injured, somehow worse than you and/or isn’t even trying to play well. It wasn’t a very nice homecoming to Toronto for you, was it? You should have saved your good game of the week for Saturday instead of doing it on Friday. That way, you could have scored 18 points and grabbed 12 boards in front of the fans that already hate and boo you in Toronto, instead of doing it for the ones who will soon be doing the same thing in New York. I don’t know why I wrote this is second person, but I’m glad I did.
7. Kenyon Martin (Last: 5) – Still injured.
8. J.R. Smith (Last: 11) - J.R. is actually playing…not that bad recently! In the Knicks’ four games last week he made 12-of-30 from deep, averaging 17 points, 4.7 assists and 7.5 rebounds. Shot selection and shooting efficiency remain issues, but, you know, the sky is blue or whatever. In Carmelo’s absence J.R. has come alive a bit, and he really is starting to resemble the player that he was for most of last season. Now he needs to sustain it, especially when and if the Knicks get healthy again.
9. Amar’e Stoudemire (Last: 9) - Amar’e turned back the clock on Saturday, dropping 23 and 9 rebounds against Toronto in the second game of a back-to-back, no less. He also had 22 on Christmas against the Thunder, but just 13 combined in the other two games of the week. STAT struggles particularly in Orlando, where the Knicks really salvaged the game by taking him out and replacing him with Andrea Bargnani early in the fourth quarter. He remains a serious liability on the defensive end, and the Knicks remain a better team with him on the bench, per 82games.com.
10. Iman Shumpert (Last: 8) - The fact that Shumpert is one of the few Knicks to play all 30 games this season and deserves to be ranked down here is a testament to many things, but let’s not ignore that one of them is that Shumpert has been downright awful this season. Shumpert reached double digits in scoring in five of the team’s first 10 games this year; he’s reached it just three times in the last 20. He’s been held scoreless four times this year; he’d been held scoreless six times total in his first career 104 regular season games. He’s made a total of six three pointers in his last 13 games. Per 82games.com, he’s getting routinely outplayed by his counterpart. You can blame him, you can blame Mike Woodson, you can blame Jim Dolan and trade rumors if you want. This is regression, and it’s not good.
11. Toure Murry (Last: 12) - Murry had his best and most productive game as a pro on Saturday, scoring 11 points and adding six assists. He hasn’t quite been the defensive whiz or spark plug a lot of fans were hoping for yet, but with Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni still injured, can a start be too far off? Why the heck not?
12. Metta World Peace (Last: 10) – Injuries keep pushing Metta down the ladder. He did play five minutes in Toronto on Saturday night, but didn’t do much and that was all for the week. He’s a square peg to the Knicks’ round hole. Or something.
13. Raymond Felton (Last: 13) - Felton came back from a 13-day absence last Monday against Orlando, only to hurt strain his groin after 25 minutes. Felton actually looked okay in the game, scoring 13 points, making 2-of-4 from deep and adding four assists, but he keeps getting hurt. Some players can play hurt and still be effective when they’re not 100%. Raymond Felton is not one of those players.
14. Cole Aldrich (Last: 14) – Cole got five minutes against Oklahoma City and had 1 point, 1 rebound, 1 foul, 1 turnover, and 1 block. That’s hard to do.
15. Chris Smith (Last: 15) - Made his NBA debut on Christmas Day. FINALLY!