By: Monte Perez
As of Monday, January 24th the New York Knicks have a record of 22-24. In my preseason article I predicted the Knicks to go 42-40. This is a team that has many flaws but the future looks bright. Under Owner, James Dolan leadership, the Knicks have won 1 playoff series since 2000. They have also only had one drafted player make an all-star team (David Lee… Lee was chosen to replace Allen Iverson to represent the East team at the 2010 NBA All-Star Game. He became the first Knick to make the All-Star team since Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell did it in 2001). What was Lee’s reward? On July 9, 2010, he was signed and traded to the Golden State Warriors in a deal that involved Anthony Randolph, Kelenna Azubuike, Ronny Turiaf and a future second-round pick traded to the Knicks. This is one of the many horrific deals made under Dolan’s watch. All that has changed since Phil Jackson has run the team. The Knicks won 17 games last year and this is a 3-4 year rebuilding process. Finally the Knicks have went from short term solutions and quick fixes to a long term plan. Here are the mid-season grades for each player.
The New York Knicks Starters:
PG: Jose Calderon– 46 games played, 7.5 PPG, 4.0 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 41% from three. Calderon has been efficient from the field. He struggled early with this shot but has become a reliable shooter. The biggest problem is his inability to get into the paint on offense and inability to stop opposing point guards from getting into the paint on defense. Almost every guard that plays New York has a career scoring night. If Jackson wants to build this team into a championship contender, he will have to move Calderon by the trading deadline. He is a feisty competitor but a liability on the court most of the time.
Calderon gets a C for a grade.
SG: Arron Afflalo- 38 games played, 13.9 PPG, 1.8 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 37% from three. Affalo has been the picture of inconsistency. Over the last 10 games he has scored 9, 8, 11, 24,18,11,25,14,5 and 10 points. Afflalo has been a rugged defender and usually guards the opposing teams best PG/SMF during crunch time. He is professional in his approach and a good influence on the Knicks young guards. You can win a championship with Afflalo but he would have to come off the bench. I think he would be most effective playing 20-25 minutes. He is a role player not a starter.
Afflalo gets a C+ Grade.
SF: Carmelo Anthony- 42 games played, 21.3 PPG, 4.0 assists, 7.5 rebounds and 82% from the FT line. I have been critical of Carmelo over the years but Knicks fans couldn’t have asked for anything more. He won’t even be nominated but Anthony could be the MVP. There is not one player in the NBA that has been more valuable to his team than the former Syracuse Orangemen. He has been a willing passer and a force on the boards. He is even been a good role model for younger players. He still forces shots at times, but late in games he has been finding the open man when double teamed. Melo has evolved this year. I don’t know if it was because he spent a lot of time in the off-season with Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul and LeBron James but his leadership has been evident all season.
Hopefully over the next wo years he can still be effective and pass the torch over to Kristapas Porzingis.
Anthony Gets an A Grade.
PF: Kristaps Porzingis- 46 games played, 14 PPG, 1.2 assists, 7.8 rebounds and 1.96 blocks per game. Knicks fans booed Porzingis on draft night. I never understood why fans would boo someone they have never seen play. ESPN’s Steven A. Smith criticized Phil Jackson repeatedly after the draft. He said, “Jackson failed Carmelo Anthony with this draft pick.” I am sorry… but when did Steven A. win a championship? Why was he qualified to ridicule Porzingis! Smith has as many rings as all of us reading this article 0. Jackson has 13 as a player and coach. I think he knows a thing or two about basketball. I coached college and AAU basketball and I had great success. I notice things most don’t…After watching one Summer League game I wrote, “Porzingis was the steal of the draft.” He has surpassed all expectations. He has a jump shot that will never be blocked and has been a force on the boards. What he lacks in strength and quickness he fills with a very high basketball IQ. He has a great ability to block shots and keep the ball in play. Most young big men block shots out of bounds, he doesn’t. I don’t know if he will win rookie of the year because players like Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor are asked to score more. Porzingis is one of the most skilled big men I have ever seen. If he stays healthy, he can be an all-star for the next 10 years. He still commits silly fouls but that is expected from any young player.
Porzingis gets an A- Grade.
C: Robin Lopez- 46 games played, 8.0PPG, 6.0 rebounds and 51% from the field. Lopez has been a steady contributor to the Knicks. He is not one who is going to score 20 points and grab 10 rebounds a night. But, he has been effective at times. He has developed a very nice hook shot and does all the banging and dirty work so Porzingis doesn’t have to. He is a good compliment for Porzingis but again, he is a backup playing as a starter.
Lopez gets a B- Grade.
The New York Knicks Bench:
PG/SG: Langston Galloway –46 Games played 7.5 PPG 37% from three. Galloway has provided a spark off the Knicks bench at times. He can be a good defender and hit the open jump shot. Late in games he is a better alternative than Calderon. I like his improvement and development but he has a long way to go. I don’t think he can ever be a starting on a championship team but he can give you quality minutes off the bench.
Galloway gets a C+ Grade.
F: Derrick Williams- 45 Games played, 9.2 PPG and 3.6 rebounds. The former 2nd pick in the 2011 draft (Minnesota Timberwolves) has been the Knicks best bench player all season. He can score in bunches and go coast to coast when he gets a defensive rebound. I would like to see him do more off the glass though. At his size, 6’8 245lbs he should average at least 6 rebounds per game.
Williams gets a B- Grade.
F: Lance Thomas- 43 Games played, 8.7 PPG 41% from three. The Former Duke stand out, Thomas has been a pleasant surprise. He has improved his long range shooting and can be a stretch four when the Knicks play small ball.
Thomas Gets a B- Grade.
Point Guard Jerian Grant has showed signs of belonging in the NBA. He is a work in progress and he gets a C- Grade.
Head Coach: Derek Fisher- The Knicks were 17-65 last year. They have improved to 20-22 this season. Knicks fans and the media were very critical of Fisher during his rookie campaign. I didn’t judge Fisher at all. I expected him to make mistakes and he did. San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich went 17-47 in his first year. Fisher won 5 championships as a player and appears to be a good leader of men. He continues to learn on the job and I think he will eventually be a good coach.
Fisher gets a C+ Grade.
Phil Jackson – In just two years Jackson has turned the Knicks from a laughing stock of the NBA to a competitive, professional team. They are nowhere near what they need to be but it is a work in progress. There is a reason he has won everywhere he has worked. He knows basketball.
Jackson gets a B+ Grade.
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