Howdy, folks. Last time we ranked these Knicks, they were ready to embark on the NBA’s Texas Triangle of Death, and we were certain that they wouldn’t make it out intact. But since this season has made less sense than Season 3 of Homeland, the Knicks nearly swept the trip; one more late game folly, this time in Houston, kept them from being perfect. But the loss was bookended by impressive wins over the Spurs and Mavericks, and the Knicks return home playing perhaps their most cohesive basketball of the season.
1. Carmelo Anthony (Last: 1) - Anthony has been excellent since returning from his injury, putting together three consecutive great efforts this week. He averaged 23 points, 9 rebounds and a shade under 4 assists while shooting 44% from the field. While his play tailed off against Dallas, his torrid first quarter helped set the pace and staked the Knicks out to an early lead. His on/off court numbers remain really impressive and show the value he has to this team. Offensively, the Knicks score 104.2 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, versus just 95.3 when he sits, per NBA.com. Stop the presses, but they’re much better defensively when he plays, too. SORRY, HATERZ.
2. Tyson Chandler (Last: 3) - Despite leaving the game against Dallas early with an upper respiratory infection, Chandler jumps back up to the number 2 spot, even if his most impressive performance of the week came in the loss to Houston (11 pts, 13 rebs). Mike Woodson has kept him at around 22 minutes a night in the past five games, which is a lot better than the high 30s he came back to right off his leg injury.
3. Beno Udrih (Last: 5) – A deserved bump in the rankings for Beno, for me. While he remains a defensive liability (though he’s been better as of late), Udrih has is enjoying his best stretch of ball as a Knick since the playing time opportunity knocked. He’s helped facilitate ball movement and shots have been falling more regularly for him and others; he averaged a touch over 7 assists during the Texas trip.
4. Kenyon Martin (Last: 7) – The Knicks need to get Kenyon a shot of whatever Benjamin Button had. They went 2-0 when he played last week and 0-1 without him, and he was their second leading scorer against Dallas with 14 points on 8 field goal attempts. It’s unfortunate he can’t give them 20 minutes every single night.
5. Tim Hardaway, Jr. (Last: 2) – The resurgence of Iman Shumpert has curbed THJ’s minutes, but it’s good to see that he’s not forcing things. He’s taken just eight shots in the past three games, and went a solid 4-of-6 in Dallas. His minutes may continue to get cut and thus he’ll continue to drop in the rankings, but he appears to remain a viable offensive threat off the bench.
6. Andrea Bargnani (Last: 6) – Bargnani had a decent enough week. We’d like to see him knock down the 3-pointer at a better clip, and he should. His 29.3% this season is a career-worst, and I think a progression in the direction of the mean is a reasonable expectation. Against Houston he did some nice 1-on-1 defensive work against Dwight Howard again, and shot an efficient 6-of-12 against Dallas, with his lone three pointer being a clutch one in the fourth quarter.
7. Iman Shumpert: (Last: 10) – Confidence does wonders. Out of nowhere on Thursday in San Antonio, Shumpert eclipsed his point total from the previous six games combined, netting 27 points and making huge shots and plays in crunch time. He followed it up in Houston with 22 more points, making all six of his 3-point attempts. Combined with the effort in San Antonio, Shumpert made 12-of-14 3s. And while the scoring took a dip in Dallas, Shumpert made the two biggest shots of the game for the Knicks, salting away the game with a swooping reverse layup and a 3-ball in the latter stages of the fourth quarter. And the body language is complete reversal. The Knicks are a very different, and immediately formidable, when Shumpert plays at the top of his game.
8. Pablo Prigioni (Last: 4) – How dare the Knicks play well in Pablo’s absence?
9. Amar’e Stoudemire (Last: 9) – Amar’e's offense has come along pretty nicely recently. He has some jump again, and last week was very effective at rolling to the rim and finishing or drawing contact. he’s averaged just over four free throw attempts in the past five games, which is solid over an average of 22 minutes. He’s also rebounding better, hauling in 7 apiece in the Knicks’ last two games against Houston and Dallas. With Stoudemire, it’s about matching him up right not against the opponent but with his own teammates – playing him with Andrea Bargnani is usually a disaster.
10. Toure Murry (Last: 11) – Murry has settled in nicely in a 15-minute, backup point guard role. When Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni return from injury, it’s going to be difficult for him to maintain playing time, but that’s more on what we expect Mike Woodson to do with the rotation and not what Murry has done on the floor. Offensively he’s shown some patience and has yet to appear to be forcing anything out there, and he works his tail off defensively which, on this team, makes you very noticeable. In a small sample size, he’s improved the Knicks’ defense.
11. J.R. Smith (Last: 8) – J.R. probably doesn’t really deserve to be knocked this far down in the rankings, but when you wrestle the title of “Worst Shot Of The Year” away from Andrea Bargnani’s circus play in Milwaukee, you must feel reparations of some sort. Outside of his blunder in Houston, Smith has played a decent, controlled style of ball the past few games. He didn’t crack double digits in points in Texas, but only shot 13 times combined in the Knicks’ two victories. Those things may or may not be related.
12. Metta World Peace (Last: 12)
13. Raymond Felton (Last: 13)
Both remain unchanged in the rankings while they recover from injuries.
14. Jeremy Tyler (Last: Unranked) – The Knicks scored two points in Tyler’s one minute of the season, which means he leads the team in O-rating with a robust 200.
15. Cole Aldrich (Last: 14) – I think my favorite thing ever is when the Knicks make a three and the cameras cut to the bench, and Cole Aldrich is standing up making an okay sign/3-pointer signal with one hand very high in the air.