The New York Knicks are a great team in the East. How important is each player to their team this season? Photo Credit: Keith Allison, Flickr.com
The New York Knicks (46-26) are coming to the end of a very successful season. The Knicks’ 2012-13 campaign sees them clinching a playoff spot and that could lead to the No. 2 seed in the East. Not surprisingly, they lead the Atlantic Division with a 4.5 game lead over the Brooklyn Nets.
Coach Mike Woodson has managed this team of veterans well. Though the Knicks may be the oldest team in the Eastern Conference, they can still get the job done.
How important is each player to this team? Well, each Knick provides a role that is invaluable to the franchise. From top to bottom, let’s rank each New York Knick.
It should be no surprise that Carmelo Anthony is the most important palyer for the Knicks. Photo Credit: Scott Mecum, Flickr.com
1. Carmelo Anthony: The perennial All-Star
The Knicks’ perennial All-Star is showing why he is the man in New York. He’s having his best season yet in New York, averaging 27.6 points per game. Carmelo Anthony is indispensable, playing both forward positions and rising to the occasion. He shows glimpses of being a team leader, but isn’t consistent. He can easily lose his composure, as Kevin Garnett can attest in their locker room confrontation after their Jan. 7 game.
Anthony has come a long way from his reputation as a ball hog. He create shots for his teammates. However, Anthony still could enhance his skills when distributing the ball, as he only averages 2.6 assists per game. However, Anthony is slowly proving the critics wrong with more selfless play and clutch performances.
Tyson Chandler provides a much-needed presence underneath and veteran leadership. Photo Credit: Bridget Samuels, Flickr.com
2. Tyson Chandler: All-Star center
Tyson Chandler is one of the best centers today, scoring 10.7 points and grabbing 11 rebounds a game. Nevertheless, his injuries should concern the Knicks.
Chandler hasn’t played since being diagnosed with a bulging disc in his back, in addition to a strained neck. Essentially, the Knicks need to fill the void left behind.
Chandler is listed as questionable for a return, but he does more off the court as well. He’s a leader who has learned from his veteran role as a center for the 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks. Chandler knows what it takes to win a championship from his experience as a Maverick beating the Miami Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals. The Knicks need a healthy and able Chandler back. Otherwise those intangibles Chandler brings will be tough to fill.
J.R. Smith has made some big shots for the New York Knicks this year. Photo Credit: Keith Allison, Flickr.com
3. J.R. Smith: Sixth man
The Knicks’ sixth man/swingman is a scoring machine. J.R. Smith scores 17.7 points per game off the bench, shooting 41.5 percent from the field. He plays at the level of his competition, scoring 36 in a 95-94 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on March 7. Games like these prove Smith is a dangerous opponent for the opposition.
Moreover, Smith also has a great bond with Woodson. Smith had quite the reputation as being undisciplined and uncontrollable. But Woodson has been on top of Smith, and his coaching has paid off. Smith is showing incredible production off the bench.
Smith is invaluable as a scoring threat. With Mike Woodson at the helm, Smith’s uncanny shooting ability is an amazing asset to the Knicks.
4. Iman Shumpert: Defensive swingman
Iman Shumpert, the defensive-minded swingman, was brought on for one thing: defense. And what a great investment it has been for the franchise.
Shumpert, 23, averages a steal a game, 1.6 steals at home. He’ll face the unenviable task of taking on the best stars, including the Nets’ Joe Johnson and the Heat’s Dwyane Wade. This season Shumpert came back after having surgery on his left knee and has only played 34 games. Though not known for his scoring, he is vital to the Knicks’ rotation. They don’t have many players known for defense. If Shumpert tweaks the knee like he did on March 20, the Knicks could lose their best defender.
5. Raymond Felton: Veteran point guard
The expert point guard is in his second stint as a Knick after being shipped to the Denver Nuggets in the trade for Anthony. Since he came back, Raymond Felton has performed adequately.
Felton averages 5.5 assists and 14.1 points per game. He’s also performing defensively, as he averages 1.4 steals a game. The guard knows the pressure in New York and performs well. He’s led the Knicks before under coach Mike D’Antoni’s program. Under Woodson, he’s become a more all-around player and a leader to the Knicks.
6. Amar’e Stoudemire: Principled forward/center
This forward/center, though often injured, is still a valuable player. Amare Stoudemire was the Knicks’ first big fish in their reconstruction. In 29 games, he’s scored 14.2 points and grabbed five rebounds per game. However, his injuries make him a concern.
Stoudemire came back from back surgery and knee problems. Now, he’s rehabbing after getting surgery on his right knee. The Knicks could once again have to make a run without him, which is disappointing. Stoudemire showed glimpses of his old self, scoring 22 points in back-to-back victories against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons on March 4 and March 6, respectively. He provides the height needed for the Knicks to win. Unfortunately, they’ll probably have to win without him again.
7. Jason Kidd: Quintessential basketball player
The seasoned All-Star’s best days are behind him. Yet this point guard still knows what it takes to win.
Jason Kidd, also a member of the 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks, averages 6.4 points and 3.3 assists a game. His best contribution is at the free-throw line. Kidd shoots 83.3 percent from the line and the Knicks sorely needed improvement. The Knicks ranked 31st in free throws made and now rank 21st. It’s still poor, but Kidd makes that number better. Plus, he leads the team in steals with 1.7 a game. Kidd has helped shooting and defensively. His play and experience makes him still a worthy member of the Knicks.
8. Steve Novak: The 3-point specialist
Steve Novak is a 3-point extraordinaire. Out of the most attempts, Novak leads the team in 3-point percentage at 42.2 percent. He’s ranked 13th in the NBA in that category. It only shows how streaky the forward is.
Novak is on fire when he’s on a roll. He can hit the 3 anywhere at any time. But he can get cold, too. He’s made 128 -of-302 3-pointers. Novak must maintain his strides and skills to contribute.
9. Pablo Prigioni: The old rookie
Pablo Prigioni is a 35-year-old rookie from Rio Tercero, Argentina. He’s similar to Kidd in implementing the Knicks’ perimeter defense. This point guard averages 0.9 steals in 67 games.
Despite his limited playing time, his passing excels. Prigioni averages three assists a game. He may not be known as a scoring machine, but he can play defense and be a role player in his limited time on the court.
10. Kenyon Martin: Dominating veteran
Kenyon Martin was initially signed to a 10-day contract to bolster the frontcourt and was picked up for the remainder of the season last month. This forward/center is proving the Knicks right in their investment.
Amazingly, the 35-year-old veteran is averaging 8.1 points and 5.1 rebounds in 14 games this season. Martin can still dominate the boards as demonstrated by his best performance on the March 22 victory over the Toronto Raptors, scoring 19 and grabbing 11. If Martin can still produce, those voids created by the absence of from Chandler and Stoudemire could be easier to fill.
11. Chris Copeland: Triggering bench-man
Chris Copeland doesn’t do the Knicks any favors defensively. He was brought on for his offense and has performed decently off the bench.
In 45 games, Copeland averages seven points per game, shooting 46.9 percent from the field. The 28-year-old forward can become the spark the Knicks need from the bench in the playoffs. If the Copeland sparks ignites, he’ll be a dangerous weapon for the Knicks.
12. James White: Dynamic swingman
James White is a dynamic swingman best know for his Slam Dunk appearance during the All-Star weekend. White doesn’t play that much, only averaging 6:47 minutes per game. White is probably the least important Knick because of his limited playing time. However, he could be the dark horse on this team come playoff season.
13. Marcus Camby: Competitive player
Marcus Camby could be the wild card in a loaded frontcourt rotation. However, his age and playing time limit his possible potential.
Camby, in his 16th year in the NBA and second stint as a Knick, only played 24 games this season. He’s averaged 1.8 points and 3.3 rebounds in that game span. With the nagging injuries currently facing the Knick in the frontcourt, Camby could be that veteran who steps up for New York.
14. Rasheed Wallace: Committed veteran
Despite not playing since the 2010 NBA Finals, Rasheed Wallace was swayed by Woodson to come back. He still brought that veteran leadership and dedication to the Knicks. Even the fans looked forward to his return as this video demonstrated on Nov. 2 at Madison Square Garden, his Knick debut against the Heat in a 104-84 victory.
However, Wallace hasn’t returned since December. He’s battled a fractured left foot that resulted in surgery. It’s likely he won’t return this season. It’s a shame too, because Wallace was invaluable with his experience and in developing and influencing the team’s chemistry. Wallace may have played his last game in the NBA, but if he comes back, he’ll still be a threat for teams.
15. Kurt Thomas: Experienced warhorse
Kurt Thomas was part of that platoon to replace Tyson Chandler. He also suffered the injury bug when he suffered a stress fracture in his right foot. It’s unlikely he’ll return for the season as well. The New York Post reported there’s a 50-50 chance that Thomas will return for the playoffs. If so, his experience will support that battered frontcourt.
Frankly, despite the numerous injuries and age factors hindering the New York Knicks, they have a great squad that plays the game. They have what it takes to make a deep run in the playoffs. So, attaining the No. 2 seed in the East for the New York Knicks is possible. Winning all the way is possible if everyone is healthy. As the old adage says “Easier said than done.”