Editor’s note: Will Leitch is on his honeymoon this week, which we believe involves parking an RV in this lot for five straight days, eating beef jerky, and listening to Foghat on a cassette tape. To write his weekly Knicks Power Rankings, we’ve recruited the able Seth Rosenthal of Posting and Toasting, the world’s most famous Knicks blog. Come with us now for a special gravy-fueled edition of the Power Rankings!
1. Amar’e Stoudemire. (Last week: 1.) Stoudemire may have been out-dunked by Blake Griffin on Saturday night, but his 39-point, eleven-rebound (and the win) performance was the flourish on a week of increasingly dominant basketball. Amar’e is scoring more and more within the flow of the offense, perhaps buoyed by the fact that his shooters are, you know, hitting shots and stretching the defense so he can operate. After weeks of struggling, we’ve finally seen some successful pick-and-rolls, and Stoudemire has also begun to embrace isolation without dribbling off his knees. It was an exciting, productive week for the begoggled one, due in no small part to help from his teammates.
2. Raymond Felton. (Last week: 6.) Mike D’Antoni may have solved his point-guard issues by telling Raymond Felton to play … less like a point guard. Felton is looking to score first and make defenses pay for neglecting him. Opposing guards foolish enough to sag or lose a step on the pick-and-roll have been punished for their transgressions. Felton continues to shoot solidly from downtown and is turning hand-offs from Amar’e and company into easy layups and floaters around the rim. Maybe the pick-and-roll was sputtering because Felton had yet to establish himself as a scoring threat? There’s something to be said for a picker and a roller that are equally dangerous. If the little guy continues to drain, opponents simply can’t get away with sextuple-teaming Stoudemire as he rolls to the rim. Felton gets the Power Ranking edge on Danilo Gallinari because of a 35-point, eleven-assist outing on Friday followed by a seven-steal performance on Saturday. This seems like as good a time as any to note that both Felton and Gallinari talk out of the sides of their mouths a lot, for whatever that’s worth.
3. Danilo Gallinari. (Last week: 5.) Something must have clicked for Gallo during halftime of Tuesday night’s loss to the Nuggets. In the three and a half games since then, he’s been an offensive force, and not just because he rediscovered his outside shot. We’ve seen more activity off the ball, increased willingness to drive, and — this is the big one — free throws. Danilo may reject being called a superstar, but he’s beginning to get to the line like one. This past week, he head-faked, arm-flailed, and hip-wiggled his way to 44 free throws attempted in four games. The marked increase in assertiveness is crucial not only for Gallinari’s own productivity, but for the success of others. (Hint: see “shooters,” “hitting shots” in the first paragraph.)
4. Ronny Turiaf. (Last week: 7.) Coach D’Antoni celebrated Turiaf’s return from injury with a speedy insertion into the starting lineup, and it was immediately clear why that was a wise move. Turiaf cannot and will not create for himself, but it should come as no surprise that the affable Martiniquais is also generous. Turiaf passes brilliantly from his station at the top of the key, and his presence in the lineup adds dimension to the Felton-Stoudemire pick-and-roll. Before, Felton struggled to make the entry pass when pressured. Now, he’s escaping pickles by swinging the ball to Turiaf, outsourcing the assist duties to the taller, better-positioned player. Ronny has embraced the extra touches, notching eight assists at Golden State and grinning all the while. Not to be greedy, but Turiaf is a consistent mid-range jumper away from playing the Boris Diaw role in D’Antoni’s offense. On the other end, Turiaf continues to surprise opposing big men with his shot-blocking prowess. When that fails, he smothers them with hugs (which, unfortunately, is a foul at the NBA level).
5. Landry Fields. (Last week: 4.) Had these rankings been written last Wednesday, Fields’s name would appear at all fifteen positions, and probably the byline as well. Even several games after the fact, downgrading Landry in order to elevate his teammates feels wrong. The rookie’s 21 points and seventeen rebounds in Denver cemented what we all suspected: Landry Fields is very, very good at basketball. It’s not cute anymore; Fields is the real deal. He continues to run the floor and soar in the air above it with the savvy of a veteran, contributing without ever playing over his head. Simply put, Fields has been a revelation, even if his name sounds like that of a granola-bar manufacturer.
6. Wilson Chandler. (Last week: 3.) It’s easy to forget about Chandler right now, which is neither a knock on Wilson nor a reason for concern. While other Knicks find their touch, Chandler is letting the offense come to him, pulling from outside only when he catches the ball in rhythm (for the most part). Wil’s defensive presence has not wavered. He’s helping from the weak side, blocking shots at the rim, but, as it happens, also fouling quite a bit.
7. Toney Douglas. (Last week: 2.) Toney’s run of big three-pointers on Saturday may or may not mark his exodus from Slumpsville, but he’s had a tough go of it defensively. Toney is a notorious larcener, but he’s noticeably lacking in steals over the last couple of weeks. Some of Toney’s defensive struggles (not limited to just steals) might be caused by a lingering back injury, so we’ll see.
8. Bill Walker. (Last week: 11.) After a brief, hideous experiment with Roger Mason as the fourth guard, D’Antoni quickly returned Walker to the regular rotation, where he’s been solid if unspectacular.
9. Timofey Mozgov. (Last week: 8.) Timofey lost his starting spot and missed a game due to injury, but that hasn’t prevented him from hitting folks. Timofey’s foul total (32) is nipping at the heels of his point total (37) in week four of their showdown. Looking good, fouls. Just remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Meanwhile, on Saturday, Mozgov demonstrated his usefulness as a pedestal, though it bears mentioning that Timo swatted one of Blake Griffin’s shots as well.
10. Anthony Randolph. (Last week: 9.) Well, he’s fallen out of the rotation, but Randolph is handling his benching like a professional, which is nice.
11. Shawne Williams. (Last week: Unranked.) Williams has yet to take the floor as a Knick, but he’s perfectly capable of making headlines from the bench, thank you very much. Shawne’s scrimmage-time antics make him the king of the DNPs by a long shot.
12. Andy Rautins. (Last week: 12.) Since Andy didn’t get to spin this week, here’s a photo of his birthday cupcake from a few weeks ago. At least he’s eating well.
13. Roger Mason Jr. (Last week: 10.) Since Roger didn’t get to spin this week, here’s a photo of a capybara posed to look like it’s reading a book.
(Injured: Kelenna Azubuike, Eddy Curry.)