The Knicks are certainly a much better team now than they were at this point a year ago, but that doesn’t mean all is well and fixed.
New York (23-32) enters the second half of the season losers in six-straight games and 10 of its last 11 contests – and only above three other putrid franchises in the Eastern Conference. Team president Phil Jackson just relieved his protégé Derek Fisher of his head coaching duties, and pretty much admitted that this current roster won’t change much ahead of the Feb. 18 trading deadline.
Jackson candidly offered that aside from his two untouchables – All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony and rookie sensation Kristaps Porzingis – there’s not much talent to be offered in trade talks. And since general manager Steve Mills has stated publicly that the Knicks won’t be mortgaging the future by relinquishing draft picks anymore, it makes for very little bargaining chips that New York has to offer.
Barring a team willing to be duped by the Zen Master, this current version of the Knicks roster will be the one trying to dig out of its hole and back into the playoff race.
Metro doles out grades and the skinny on each regular-rotation player:
Carmelo Anthony: There are trade rumors swirling (although Anthony has a no-trade clause) simply because this team appears to be going nowhere again and his trade value is at its peak since this is the best Anthony has played in years. An annual all-star, Anthony is averaging 21.4 points, eight rebounds, and a career-high 4.2 assists and has completely bought into Jackson’s Triangle philosophies. Grade: A
Kristaps Porzingis: He’s gone from draft-night boos to regular-season catcalls, as the Latvian big man has quieted the doubters and has made Jackson look like a genius. Porzingis, the fourth overall pick, has consistently been among the rookie leaders, as his 13.9 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game are among the tops for first-year players. Grade: B
Arron Afflalo: When he signed as a free agent, it was under the radar and relatively discarded. But the veteran shooting guard has provided a nice third option – and sometimes even a first or second option whenever either of the Big Two misses a game. Afflalo is averaging 14.2 points per game and is the third-most efficient shooter on the team among perimeter players (45 percent from the field). Grade: B-minus
Robin Lopez: He signed that huge deal over the summer (four years, $55 million) that’s usually reserved for elite big men. But since there are very few of those remaining, he’ll do. The 7-foot-1 center is averaging 9.3 points, 6.4 rebounds per game, and only Porzingis is averaging more blocks per contest (1.4). Grade: C-plus
Lance Thomas: The New Jersey product may have finally found a home in New York. He’s been revitalized, averaging a career-high in points (8.5) in 22 hard-earned minutes per night. He’s also second on the team among perimeter players with 46-percent shooting from the field. Grade: C-plus
Derrick Williams: The high-energy journeyman who is on his third team since being drafted in 2011, Williams is the catalyst off the bench. He’s turned himself into a fan favorite with his manic hustle and jarring dunks. Williams, a former No. 2 overall, pick, is averaging nine points in just 17 minutes of action each night. Grade: C-plus
Langston Galloway: He’s another fan favorite of the Garden faithful due to his high-energy and feisty play. Galloway is averaging career highs in field-goal percentage (42 percent) and 3-point percentage (38 percent), while posting eight points in 25 minutes of action off the bench. He’s also endeared himself with his teammates, coaches, and fans with his ability – and desire – to take and make several big shots. Grade: C-plus
Jose Calderon: His 47-percent shooting from the floor is the best on the team among perimeter players, and the best he’s shot in four seasons, but otherwise it hasn’t been the best of campaigns for the highly-paid veteran. Calderon is averaging career lows in points (7.5) and assists (4.1) and has been a liability on defense. What saves him is his veteran leadership for the younger players and the fact his contract ($7 million each this year and the next) basically makes him untradeable. Grade: C
Jerian Grant: The rookie point guard is probably the most talented lead guard on the roster, but what draws him back is his raw ability. He’s been a willing learning at Calderon’s feet, but has yet shown the consistency to take the veteran’s starting job. In due time -- if the season continues to go south – interim head coach Kurt Rambis will likely hand over the reigns to the former Notre Dame star and see what he can do. Grade: C-minus