|New York||25||13||.658||–||14-5||11-8||4-2||15-6||101.5||96.5||+5.0||Won 2||5-5|
|Toronto||15||26||.366||11 ½||11-9||4-17||1-7||8-12||97.4||99.3||-1.9||Won 1||4-6|
The Atlantic Division is starting to become a two team race between the Knicks and Nets, thanks to the inconsistent play of the Celtics of late. In this Atlantic Division roundup, I’ll give player grades for the first half of the season.
New York Knicks:
Raymond Felton: B
Felton had played really excellent ball prior to his injury. His only downside was that he isn’t an excellent shooter, but his ball handling, dribble penetration, and passing was key to Knicks hot start. His 2 man pick and roll game with Tyson Chandler is a game changer.
Jason Kidd: B+
What Kidd has done at the age of 39 has been amazing. He continues to rebound and distribute well despite his advanced age, but what he has really done for this team is help to open up driving lanes by stretching the floor with his three point shot. He is shooting 42% from downtown this season and is a stabilizing force for this team.
Ronnie Brewer: C
A Classic glue guy, he plays only 19 minutes a night, but provides solid wing defense. If he was a good shooter, he’d play more.
Tyson Chandler: A
This guy continues to dominate the interior portion of the court on both ends. He sets excellent screens, is a top tier rebounder, and is a great defensive player both in one on one situations and in help defense. He leads the NBA in FG% by a wide margin and is the perfect player to mix with volume shooters like Carmelo and Smith since he gets nearly all his shots on put-backs and alley oops.
Carmelo Anthony: A-
That’s right, I didn’t give Carmelo perfect marks. We all know his prolific scoring ability anywhere on the court, but he still has a propensity for poor shot selection. He also leaves a lot to be desired defensively. Carmelo was my MVP choice early in the year, but right now I’m not convinced of it anymore. He is shooting it great from outside which needs to continue for the Knicks to remain on top of the division. As well as Melo has played, he needs to elevate his play to a whole new level of efficiency if the Knicks have a shot at a championship.
The Bench has done a great job scoring the ball, led by JR Smith. Injuries have hurt the front-court depth as both Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby are going to need to be instrumental pieces for this team in the postseason. Amar’e, Chris Copeland, PP, and Novak are all playing well. Iman Shumpert has returned to the team too, and while he will be a starter and likely move Kidd to the bench once Felton is healthy, it will only increase the depth of this unit.
Deron Williams: C+
As poorly as Williams has shot the ball, he has managed to play well in all other regards since the coaching change at the end of December. When he is on his game he is a top 5 PG, but so far he has not played like the franchise player he is supposed to be.
Joe Johnson: B
JJ is a truly dynamic scorer who is just starting to find his groove. His shooting is also not where it needs to be, but he has a great ability for one on one play. His play off of Deron will be key moving forward.
Gerald Wallace: C+
The guy gives his all every time he steps on the court, but he looks like a shell of his former self. He can’t shoot, which he never could, but he isn’t attacking the glass or blocking shots like he used to. I love him as a glue guy and he makes the team better, but he isn’t playing great so far this year.
Reggie Evans: B+
He rebounds and hustles as well as anyone in the league. He averages 9 boards in 22 minutes a game. If he does anything else, it’s icing on the cake.
Brook Lopez: A-
Lopez is an elite offensive player, shooting nearly 52% and leading the team in scoring. No complaints with his offense so far. He plays okay defense, but is just a average-at-best rebounder.
They have some solid pieces, but there is little front court depth. The move of Evans to the starting unit and Humphries to the bench was a long time coming. They just need a player besides Blatche to score and be active.
Rajon Rondo: B-
Rondo has not played as well as his stats may indicate. He often does not bring the necessary intensity to each game. The thing about Rondo is that he can go by his opponent at almost anytime, often making making it look easy, but it has become far too common for Rondo to not be aggressive. When he is aggressive, this team is good, when he is passive they are mediocre. He is the engine of the C’s train.
Avery Bradley: B
Well Bradley hasn’t been back long, but he has shown elite defense in his return. He can also knock down open threes and uses backcuts to get easy buckets. It’s a small sample size, but right now he is playing solid.
Paul Pierce: B-
The Truth has not been his normal self so far this year, missing a lot of open jumpers and shooting a few too many threes. Saying that, he is still an elite player offensively and is the best one-on-one option for this C’s team.
Kevin Garnett: B+
KG is starting to show age, but is still aggressive on both ends. He is shooting 50% right now and has been a great mentor for Jared Sullinger. KG is a winner, but needs to be a leader in terms of consistency for this team.
Brandon Bass: D
Bass has been terrible. Defensively he can’t stop anyone, Offensively he looks afraid. He occasionally hits open jumpers, but its been an awful season for him.
What an up and down unit. They have some great players who are just not gelling consistently. Jared Sullinger is a beast, Jeff Green can dominate when he wants to, and Courtney Lee looks to have turned around after his slow start. Jason Terry continues to struggle and Chris Wilcox has been injured. They play great one game and poorly the next.
Jrue Holiday: A
Can you ask anymore from this kid? He has dominated the league offensively and shown good defensive promise. He is scoring 19 a game and dishing out 9 dimes. Without any inside presence, those numbers are fantastic. Unfortunately he is playing for a bad team.
Jason Richardson: C-
Richardson isn’t shooting at an elite level, only 34% from downtown and when his shot isn’t falling he is pretty useless on the court.
Evan Turner: B-
Turner just doesn’t show the consistency we’d like to see from him. He does everything well and still could be a star if he figures it out, but he is frustrating to watch game to game. He needs to raise his 43% FG shooting percentage.
Thaddeus Young: B+
I love the improvement from Young. He has great energy, athleticism and ball skills, but he is undersized for a PF. He is doing about all he can for this team, he just needs a big guy to play next too…cough cough Bynum Cough
Lavoy Allen: C
After looking really good in the postseason last year, Allen hasn’t improved much this year. His game is boring and would be fine for a backup PF, but he is having to start for this team and it’s unfortunate.
They have three serviceable bench players in Nick Young, Spencer Hawes, and Dorrell Wright, but no one else really. This team just doesn’t have the depth to be competitive.
This team has so many starting lineups, im just going to use what I think is their best…
Jose Calderon: B+
He is a boring player, but he rarely turns it over, shoots a high percentage from everywhere and dishes the rock to shooters. His downfall is he isn’t a slasher, but we knew this and therefore he has played as well as his potential allows for.
Kyle Lowry: B+
He does everything well and will thrive once Calderon is traded. He hasn’t shot the ball as well as he is capable of so far this year, but that hasn’t stopped him from being efficient as a player. He leads the team in PER at 22.4 and has all-star potential.
DeMar DeRozan: B
He has played really well so far this year. Not a good shooter but he gets to the rim at will and plays decent defense. He will be a key piece as they rebuild.
Andrea Bargnani: D-
Shot the ball horribly and was allergic to rebounding when he was healthy. They need to move this guy ASAP and make room for the young fellas.
Jonas Valanciunas: B+
The rookie played great before his injury. He looks like a keeper as he hits the glass hard and can finish at the rim. I look for a big jump his sophomore year.
I like Ed Davis, Landry Fields, Pietrus, Anderson and especially Terrence Ross. This is a solid, athletic group that provides a lot of energy. They lack star power, but they play well together. Terrence Ross is a freak athlete who could be a star in this league soon.