It's been nearly a week since the New York Knicks season ended, which seems to be the right amount of time to ponder over and hand out yearly grades for each Knick. Any time sooner, and we let emotion get in the way (as in, Carmelo Anthony sucks get rid of him now!); any longer and we would have forgotten that Bill Walker was a 30 minute a game player for the Knicks at one point this year.
Tyson Chandler: A+
Chandler was everything the Knicks could have hoped for and more. He took home the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year award, which he probably got because "Holy crap the Knicks don't suck at defense anymore!" He was largely responsible for the Knicks' being in the top five in Defensive Rating (points allowed per 100 possessions). Chandler was incredibly consistent this season as you always knew what you were getting from him.
Jeremy Lin: A
How could I not give Jeremy Lin an A+? Yeah, it's an unfair grade, but it really would have been nice to see the kid stay healthy. Other than that, full marks. We all know the Linsanity story, as the little Asian dude from Harvard became an international superstar by dominating the NBA for a few weeks. The Knicks now have a young, talented point guard to run the show. It remains to be seen how Lin really fits in Mike Woodson's system, with Carmelo Anthony the main focal point of the offense (as it should be). The Knicks will need some balance going forward, a little bit more ball movement and shot-making from their backcourt, and Lin can help provide that.
Iman Shumpert: A-
Shumpert's health also prevented him from getting a higher grade. He'll be out for much of next year with a torn ACL and meniscus, suffered in the playoffs. But in his rookie year, Shumpert proved to be one of the best perimeter defenders in the entire league. He gives the Knicks something they've sorely lacked for a really long time. Shumpert looked more like a rookie on the offensive end, where his shot selection will need to improve quite a bit.
Steve Novak: A-
Novak showed during the regular season why he's a weapon. But during the playoffs he also showed how one-dimensional he is. When the Heat made it a point to close him down, he proved to be as useful on a basketball court as a three-ring binder. He led the NBA in 3-point percentage during the season though, and we all hope he comes back so we can watch more Discount Double Checking.
Jared Jeffries: B+
For what Jared Jeffries will give you, he did a pretty darn good job this season. Again, injuries hampered Jeffries down the stretch, and I think he would find a nice role on a Mike Woodson-coached team. If Jeffries returns, let's hope the NBA doesn't get TOO crazy in legislating flopping.
J.R. Smith: B
J.R. Smith's Evil Twin: F
If he returns next year, let's hope we see more of J.R. (Threes, dunks, decent defense) than Evil Twin (bricks, passes to the 12th row, nut-shotting opponents on three-point attempts).
Josh Harrellson: B+
"Jorts" showed some nice promise as a second rounder in his rookie season. He's a very heady defender and can knock down the occasional three.
Mike Bibby: C+
The Knicks were dangerously thin at point guard this season, and one of the reasons was because we saw early in the season how little Bibby had left. Funny, though, how he ended up hitting probably the biggest shot in Game 4 against the Heat, the Knicks' lone playoff win in a decade.
Baron Davis: C
Remember that funny time before Linsanity where we all kept saying "We just have to wait and see what this team looks like with Baron Davis!"? Davis wasn't very good when he did come back but wasn't very good either, obviously slowed down and still hampered by injuries. We all hope that his garish knee injury suffered in the playoffs won't end his career, but it will likely end his Knicks tenure.
Bill Walker: C-
It's about time Bill Walker wasn't a Knick anymore.
Landry Fields: D
In today's NBA, it really hurts to have your starting shooting guard shoot 26 percent from behind the arc. Fields' points/rebounds per game were also down from last year. For some reason, Fields seems to play scared when Carmelo Anthony is on the floor, since Fields looked like the steal of the 2010 draft before the Knicks got ‘Melo, and also enjoyed his best span of the season in 2012 when ‘Melo was out. Unfortunately, ‘Melo ain't goin' anywhere, Landry.
Toney Douglas: F
From starter to Jerome Jordan and Josh Harrellson's bench buddy.
Jerome Jordan/Dan Gadzuric: Incomplete
And now, grading the Knicks' big guns:
Amare Stoudemire: C
Like Anthony, Amare Stoudemire hit numbers lows that we haven't seen from him since he was a teenager; 17.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, 48 percent shooting. Stat had nagging injuries all season, and also underwent a personal tragedy when his brother passed away in the middle of the season. The Stoudemire that showed up in the Knicks' lone playoff win against the Heat, Game 4, is the one the Knicks need to see next year. Despite playing with his hand all bandaged up because of the fire extinguisher incident, Stoudemire played with a great amount of heart. He committed to rebounding the ball, used what's left of his athleticism to get easy baskets around the rim, and even showed a little bit of effort on defense. Stoudemire needs to bottle that up and play that way from now on. He has to find a way to become more of a scrappy player if this thing is going to work.
Carmelo Anthony: B
From an individual numbers standpoint, this was probably Carmelo Anthony's second or third worst season. His points, rebounds and shooting percentage were as low as they have been since his first few professional seasons. He did average a career second-best in assists at 3.6 per game, but who cares because ‘Melo is selfish gosh darnit!
‘Melo gets a B for his late season surge, since in the beginning of the season he was terrible and out of shape and likely helped getting Mike D'Antoni fired (wait, shouldn't that get him an A+?)
Anthony showed late in the season why it's possible to build around him and be a successful team. People (cough Harvey Araton cough) will read that and scoff, and that's fine. When we really think about how many players in the NBA could be absolute Alpha Males, guys who can take a team with little help and bring it to a truly elite level, how many are there? When did it become a crime to be a player like Anthony, a great player who simply needs some damn help? A guy I've recently come to compare Anthony to is someone who probably heard a lot of the same "not good enough" crap for a long time, Dirk Nowitzki. Dirk is an elite scorer, a decent at best defender, whose best characteristic is that he can get his team two points when they really need it. That, to me, sounds a lot like describing Carmelo Anthony. Before Nowitzki won a title in 2011, how were people ranking Dirk? How about after he helped the Mavs choke away a 2-0 Finals lead to the Heat in 2006, with four straight forgettable performances in games 3-6? Find me someone on Earth who right then thought Dirk would ever be the guy on a title winning team.
It's amazing what a title does for someone's legacy, and that's fair, but all top players need to be in favorable situations, on well-coached, well-balanced teams that compliment their skill set well in order to win. That simply hasn't been the case for Anthony since he put on a Knick uniform. Unfortunately with the way
CAA the Knicks are running this ship, there's a good chance that never happens.