Every weekday throughout the season, ESPNNewYork.com will tackle a burning question about the Knicks in our "Opening Tip" segment.
Today's Burning Question: What's been the biggest surprise of the season thus far?
Last year under Mike Woodson, the Knicks were the fourth-best defensive team in the NBA (91.5 points per game). Right now they're first (90.0). While their shutdown D was predicted, here are some bigger surprises:
The Knicks' efficiency. At this pace, their turnovers per game average (10.4) will enter the record books. Since 1977-78, when the stat was first tracked, last season's 76ers have been the closest (11.2). In case you missed it, the Knicks have organized a friendly turnover contest. If the players keep the total below 13 in a game, the coaches have to run during the following practice.
"We like that," Carmelo Anthony said Sunday. "We like to see our coaches run in practice. I know our coaches want us to be the best-shape team in the NBA, so they’re going to be the best coaching staff in shape in the NBA."
J.R. Smith's shooting and defense. On offense he's been very smart, picking and choosing his shots -- he has career-highs in field goal percentage (48.1) and 3-point percentage (60.0). And he's made his greatest impact on the team defensively. When he's on the court, the Knicks are holding opponents to 10.4 fewer points per 48 minutes.
Raymond Felton's redemption. Jeremy who? Felton has made many fans retract their anger over the Knicks not matching the Rockets' offer sheet to Jeremy Lin. While the starting point guard's shooting numbers are a bit low, as Woodson said Sunday, "Raymond's been everything and more for our ballclub."
Rasheed Wallace's sudden rise. Just two weeks after the power forward said he wasn't sure when he'd play, he's become an integral part of the rotation, providing post scoring, 3-point shooting, and some of the best one-on-one defense in the league.
Marcus Camby's minimal play. While Camby keeps saying he "feels great," Woodson has been calling Wallace's name off the bench before Camby's. While they're both effective defensive players, Wallace's offensive versatility has given him the edge, which has been needed with Amar'e Stoudemire sidelined.
You may be wondering, where's the inclusion of Carmelo Anthony's post-up defense? While he's holding opponents to around a half-point per post-up play -- one of the best marks in the league -- that shouldn't come as a surprise. He held opponents to the fewest points per post-up play in the league last season (0.54) among the 152 players to defend at least 50 post-up plays.
What do you think has been the biggest surprise of the season? Leave us your comments below.
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