What a season. No NBA team was arguably more in the news -- make that international news -- than the New York Knicks. Chauncey Billups gets amnestied. Tyson Chandler signs. Linsanity. Mike D'Antoni resigns. Mike Woodson replaces him. Injuries. Amare Stoudemire's run-in with the fire extinguisher. First-round loss, yet again.
Now that the Knicks' five-seasons-wrapped-into-one is over, here are your postseason grades, starting from the top.
JAMES DOLAN: While some insiders criticized Dolan for dismantling the Knicks' roster last season to acquire Anthony -- something D'Antoni was opposed to, according to sources -- the owner got his marketable man. And he's provided his fair share of heroics at the Garden and led the Knicks to the playoffs two years in a row. Beyond Anthony, Dolan was smart to allow Glen Grunwald to have the power to make basketball decisions. Grunwald and Woodson worked together well to bring a winning approach back to New York. Looking ahead, Dolan needs to continue to listen to Grunwald, who should be in the running for Executive of the Year. GRADE: A
GLEN GRUNWALD: Grunwald amnestied Billups in December to make room for Chandler, which proved to be a smart move. After Donnie Walsh secured two offensive weapons in Anthony and Stoudemire, Grunwald got the team a much-needed defensive anchor. Beyond Chandler, every major acquisition Grunwald made -- signing Steve Novak, Jeremy Lin and J.R. Smith (in that order) -- paid off in some way. Now, his biggest challenges lie ahead. He has to figure out with the little wiggle room he has, salary-cap wise, how to re-sign Lin and other key role players to balance out the bench. GRADE: A
MIKE WOODSON: The Knicks entered the playoffs having won 18 of their last 24 regular-season games under Woodson, averaging just a shade under 100 points per game (11th-best during that span), while holding opponents to 91.5 points per game (fourth-best). The Knicks were getting it done on both sides of the ball, playing like a third seed (after the Bulls and Heat). Not only that, Woodson had to manage a depleted roster due to injuries. He did a nice job with the cards he was dealt. But the biggest question is: can Woodson orchestrate a creative and consistent offense that brings out the best in Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler, the Knicks' core, and is not all about isolating Melo? Against the Heat, the Knicks struggled to make adjustments and even Steve Novak was completely neutralized five games in a row. These offensive issues, and plenty more, will be front-and-center on Grunwald's offseason evaluation report. GRADE: A-
CARMELO ANTHONY: There were times this season when Anthony was the star that Knicks fans wanted to see, and other times when he seemed to be the reason the team's offense stalled. But the Knicks wouldn't have won their first playoff game in 11 years without him. While he shot a ton, he made a good percentage, and he also played point-forward well when the Knicks were without Jeremy Lin and Baron Davis. He even played power forward when Amare Stoudemire was sidelined late in the regular season and in Game 3. Melo played through injuries to his right hip and wrist earlier in the season, and when the team couldn’t find an identity on offense, he was the offense and led them to multiple victories. Yes, Anthony finished the season averaging 22.6 per game, his lowest average since his second season in the NBA, but he also averaged nearly 30 points and shot just under 50 percent from the field in April before the playoffs to help land the Knicks the seventh seed. GRADE: B
AMARE STOUDEMIRE: Based on what Stoudemire did individually this season, averaging only 17.5 points per game (his lowest amount since his rookie season), he was clearly lacking the pep in his step that he had in previous years. His two uninsured knees seemed brittle and he did not have him the explosiveness he had in the past. He didn't finish as many plays around the rim and for someone who didn't always excel defensively, his ability to make stops was worsened because he didn't have the lift at times to block shots from the weak side (he went from 1.9 blocks per game in 2010-11 to 1.0 this past season). And based on how he played within the Knicks' offense, he could never quite figure out how to play with Anthony and Chandler. In fact, Chandler was usually the more effective pick-and-roller with Lin running point, and Stoudemire sometimes stood around watching. But STAT's still got game and with some clever engineering between he, Anthony and Chandler, next season, he'll be a "big piece of the puzzle," as Woodson always says. GRADE: C+
TYSON CHANDLER: You could make the easy argument that not only was Chandler the Knicks' most consistent player, but was also their most valuable because he excelled on both ends of the court, helping the team maintain a winning record through all of their ups and downs this season. And he was the catalyst while dealing with groin and left wrist injuries. In 2010-11, with Anthony, Stoudemire and a few defensive pieces (most notably, Wilson Chandler and Jared Jeffries), the Knicks had a defensive rating of 110.1 (22nd of 30 in the league). This season? 101.0 (fifth-best), a big credit to Chandler, the Defensive Player of the Year. Offensively, if there was an award for most efficient player, Chandler would be on the receiving end. For the season, he shot nearly 70 percent from the field (67.9). GRADE: A
JEREMY LIN: Reflecting on the regular season, most players agreed that Linsanity was the biggest highlight. When the Knicks were struggling to find solid point-guard play -- after Toney Douglas and Iman Shumpert couldn't cut it -- Lin was the hidden gem who could put pressure on the defense with his pick-and-roll playmaking. However, his turnovers were usually way up. But his speed and quickness also enabled the Knicks to play at a faster pace at times -- something the Knicks were sorely missing towards the end of the season when he was out of the lineup with a small chronic meniscal tear in his left knee. GRADE: B+
BARON DAVIS: Give the man some credit. Davis could barely get out of bed at times last summer while experiencing a herniated disk, but he worked extremely hard to return to action this season. That determination caught the eye of the Knicks who gave him a shot, even though they knew it would still take him about two months to actually return. When he finally did on Feb. 20, he provided solid point-guard play off the pick-and-roll, collecting around five assists per game for the rest of the season. GRADE: B-
IMAN SHUMPERT: When Shumpert was healthy, he was a threat defensively (1.7 steals per game; second-best among rookies) and dangerous on his drives. Offensively, he also improved his jumpshot during the season, working with Allan Houston consistently during practice and before games. Shumpert played with energy and no fear, and Knicks fans gravitated to his honest and youthful personality. Overall, he has all of the tools to develop into one of the game's best all-around shooting guards. GRADE: B+
J.R. SMITH: In New York, "Good J.R." came to play more than "Bad J.R.," and that was a credit to Smith maturing and Woodson demanding an extra push and accountability, especially on the defensive end. Now the question is: Will Woodson and Smith both be back? Woodson is more likely, but Smith, an unrestricted free agent, has said he's going to test free agency starting on July 1. GRADE: B-
STEVE NOVAK: Novakaine! From Feb. 6 to the end of the regular season, Novak created his own persona in New York with his Mr. Discount Triple Check celebration after making most of his 3-pointers. During that stretch, he averaged nearly three makes in six attempts per game, and he finished as the league's most accurate long-distance shooter (47.2 percent). But then the Heat came along, basically neutralizing him for five straight games. The Knicks will need to convince the unrestricted free agent to sign for less because his value went up this season, even though he lacked a midrange game and disappeared in the playoffs. Novak also has to do a better job working off screens like a shooting guard. GRADE: B+
LANDRY FIELDS: Fields was the one role player who frustrated fans the most this season. From mid-January to late February he played well, but then before and after that stretch, his game was off. The biggest reason for Fields' on-off switch was pace. When the Knicks picked it up, led by Lin, he flourished -- similar to last season playing alongside Raymond Felton. But when Lin was out of the lineup and the ball worked more through Anthony, that's when Fields became more of a stationary perimeter player, and his struggling 3-point shot (25.6 percent this season compared to 39.3 in 2010-11) didn't help. GRADE: C-
JARED JEFFRIES: When the Knicks re-signed Jeffries in December, fans immediately pointed to the backup center's main flaw: He cannot score. While that is largely true, Jeffries wasn't brought back for that reason, and he played well trough right knee issues all season, finishing as one of the league leaders in offensive fouls drawn. While the Knicks appreciate all the unrestricted free agent has done for them, the team will likely look for a younger version of him in the offseason (like a Jeremy Evans-type). GRADE: B+
JOSH HARRELLSON: D'Antoni was a big fan of Harrellson's because he could knock down the 3-point shot in the coach's pick-and-roll, spread-out offense. And that's just what he did in 16 games before he fractured his right wrist on Jan. 21 (on the season, he shot a respectable 33.9 percent). Then, when he finally returned right around the time Woodson took over, Harrellson showed he could make some stops on D, not backing down to big men who were more talented offensively than he was. With a few added moves to his game in the offseason, he should become a more reliable backup at center. GRADE: B
MIKE BIBBY: While he's become more of a glorified shooting guard at this point in his 14-year career, when Woodson asked him to play an extended role at the one -- after Lin and Davis' injuries -- he stepped up. Along with Davis, Bibby was helpful in guiding the younger point guards: Lin, Shumpert and Douglas. However, don't expect Bibby, an unrestricted free agent, back next season because he'll be 34 years old. GRADE: B-
TONEY DOUGLAS: The roller-coster ride for the Knicks this season was probably felt the most by Douglas. After Billups was amnestied, D'Antoni named Douglas the starting point guard. But he was unable to consistently run pick-and-rolls and generate offense, Shumpert slowly gained ground on him, then Lin came alive and by the beginning of February, Douglas was at the end of the bench. Douglas is a combo guard in a point guard's body. On offense, he can push the pace well and shoot on the move and in halfcourt sets, and he's a very active one-on-one defender. His skills need to be utilized more next season, whether it's in New York (he is signed through 2013) or elsewhere. GRADE: C-
JEROME JORDAN: Jordan has some potential. He's similar to Harrellson in the sense that he has a nice feel for the game on defense, but Jordan can block more shots because he's longer and more athletic. He just needs more game-time experience, and that could come in the fall. Also, Jordan's outside jumpshot is money. He does not miss in practice. GRADE: Incomplete
DAN GADZURIC: Gadzuric was signed in late April to give the Knicks support at center when Jeffries was due to miss several games with a sore right knee, and his status for the playoffs was uncertain at the time. But Gadzuric was sparingly used, especially because he was out of shape. Don't expect the short-term lease back next season. GRADE: Incomplete
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