The New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets waged their first battle of the season this past Saturday, and while many expected the Nets to be about where they are this season, nobody would have thought the Knicks would be right near them in the standings. But that's where the teams found themselves, fighting each other for positioning among the bottom of the Eastern Conference, on the outside of the playoff picture. Keeping with the theme of unexpectedness was the hero of Saturday's clash. Jeremy Lin came out of nowhere to drop 25 points and lead the Knicks to an improbable victory, and a loss that had the Nets shaking their heads. Since out last edition of the Power Rankings, the Knicks went 3-2, the Nets 1-4. Let the Linsanity continue.
SB Nation New York Top 5
1. Jeremy Lin - Knicks
While Lin only truly featured in two of the Knicks' five games since our last power rankings, he earned the spot by leading the Knicks to victory with two consecutive career games. He was the first point guard off the bench in Friday's loss to the Celtics, but it was Saturday in which he wowed the crowd with 25 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds. He did himself one better on Monday, leading the Knicks to victory over the Jazz with new career highs of 28 points and 8 assists. Who knows how long the Harvard guy can keep this up, but the Knicks are hoping they've found something Victor Cruz-ish in Lin.
2. Deron Williams - Nets
The Nets have only gone 1-4 since the last rankings, but Williams continues to play at a high level. Last week the point guard has averaged 23.6 points and 9.2 assists. He had costly turnovers down the stretch against the Minnesota Timberwolves and couldn't keep up with Jeremy Lin, but Williams is still the most consistent weapon on both sides of the floor the Nets have.
3. Jared Jeffries - Knicks
Amazing that a team with Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler has the likes of Jeremy Lin and Jared Jeffries ahead of them in our power rankings, but they deserve the credit. In the Knicks' past two victories, Jeffries has played his best ball of the year. He will never be an offensive weapon, but his intangibles often get lost in our YouTube, SportsCenter, Blake-Griffin's-the-best-player-ever-because-he-can-dunk society. On Monday against the Jazz, Jeffries had 13 points, 8 rebounds and drew five offensive charges. against Jersey on Saturday, he nearly had a double-double, and pulled down five offensive boards. I give credit to Mike D'Antoni (this is a landmark moment for me), who defended him in his post-game comments after the Jazz game against mindless booing by the Knicks' crowd against Jeffries.
4. Anthony Morrow - Nets
He has only been active for three of the Nets games this week due to illness and the death of his Grandmother, but he made his time on the court count. Morrow poured in a career-high 42 points against the Timberwolves, including eight three pointers. New Jersey will need to see more of that sharp shooting that he's known for if they are going to turn things around before it's too late.
5. Tyson Chandler - Knicks
Chandler's becoming a mainstay in the Top 5, and it's because of his consistency. Chandler's only double-double of the week came in a loss to the Celtics, but his defense has helped the Knicks turn their unit around. Aside from giving up 105 points in a close loss to the Bulls, the Knicks gave up 86, 91, 91 and 88 points in their other games of the week. On Monday against the Jazz, Chandler played just 22 minutes because of foul trouble, but was an incredibly impressive +18 with 10 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks. That's making an impact.
SB Nation New York Bottom Five
1. Johan Petro - Nets
Want to add some fun to the next Nets game you watch? Take a drink every time Petro costs Williams or Farmar an assist by fumbling a perfect pass in the post. Injuries are keeping him in the rotation, but once New Jersey gets a few warm bodies back, Petro will stay on the bench.
2. Shawne Williams - Nets
Williams has been fighting through injuries to get himself out on the court and it's clear he just can't play at a high level. The former Knick averaged 6.4 points and 2.9 rebounds in 32 minutes last week. He will be a much better rotation player when the team is back to full strength.
3. Iman Shumpert - Knicks
Shumpert has cooled down considerably from his hot start. He's still finding ways to be involved by rebounding and dishing out a decent amount of assists, but his shooting numbers are very low. He needs to improve his shot selection and simply needs to make more of his attempts for the Knicks to consistently turn things around, given the minutes he gets.
4. Shelden Williams - Nets
It wasn't the best week for "The Landlord", averaging just three points and 5.6 rebound. Williams didn't quite have the sort of impact he has had most of the season for the Nets, doing the dirty work.
5. Toney Douglas - Knicks
Douglas has become a total afterthought on the Knicks right now, and with the emergence of Lin and the impending return of Baron Davis, you have to wonder where Douglas fits on the team if at all. In the Knicks' five games since our last rankings, Douglas averaged 11.8 minutes per game.