20. Raymond Felton.
A low-turnover shooting point guard who runs the pick-and-roll better than most around the NBA? Sign me up. -D.S.
Relevant Raymond Felton video:
19. J.R. Smith.
I love that J.R. Smith has no filter. I love that J.R. Smith will take 32-footers with reckless abandon and yell his own name while he shoots. I love that he’s suspended for the first five games of the season because he tested positive for marijuana three times. That means he failed two tests and just didn’t care.
I love that J.R. Smith could probably shoot upwards of 46% from three-point range if he felt like it, but probably never will. I love that the Knicks are trying to act like J.R. Smith is going to clean his life up and change who he is dramatically. J.R. Smith, never change. Enjoy that you are this generation’s giant anomaly, that you do what all of us wish we could do in your position. Enjoy that you can give 8% of a crap and put up 80% of the numbers. Ignore the criticism and just keep J.R.’ing, J.R. It’s all you can do. -D.K.
Relevant J.R. Smith video:
18. Iman Shumpert.
The flat-top is gone, and so is my love for Iman Shumpert. I do think he’s going to take some huge strides as a player this year, combining his already stellar defense with an offensive development enabled by his first whole season back from an ACL recovery. If not? Here’s to a budding rap career. -D.S.
Relevant Iman Shumpert video:
17. Mike Woodson.
I love Mike Woodson for three (other) reasons:
(1) He managed to get a team of Tyson Chandler, a recovering Iman Shumpert, and a roster thereafter filled with a series of defensive minuses to actually play good defense for, like, half an NBA season.
(2) He taught the Knicks to be outrageously careful with the ball, as they finished the year with a league-best turnover ratio of 11.7, in part by getting his sprint on whenever the Knicks turned the ball over fewer than 13 times in a game.
(3) He done changed the game on above-the-neck grooming.
There is no figure in sports that I know of with more meticulously upkept facial and head hair than Mike Woodson: a goatee thicker than J.R. Smith’s skull and a dome shinier than, well, pretty much everything.
He’s a pleasure to look at on the sidelines and pretty much the ideal man to coach these off-the-wall Knicks. It’s been a long offseason. Refresh your memory of one of the NBA’s most entertaining sideline coach presences with this four-minute compilation of Mike Woodson reactions below. -D.S.
Relevant Mike Woodson video:
16. Kenyon Martin.
No matter how many injuries he fights through, how many times it looks like Kenyon Martin should be done for good, he just keeps getting up and fighting. The former Nets great counts his responsibilities as backup center duty, rim protecting, hit-taking, and opponent annoyance. I don’t begrudge him one bit. He also gets points for looking eerily like Carmelo Anthony from the broadcast camera. Overall, not a bad life. -D.K.
Relevant Kenyon Martin GIF:
15. Andrei Kirilenko.
The sleeper of these power rankings. Kirilenko, like the Johnson above him, has stayed mostly out of the spotlight, save a trip to Russia to talk overseas marketing and an in-depth investigation into his contract by the NBA. But Kirilenko did something that few players do: take less money to compete for a championship. Foolhardy? Sure. Kirilenko left $10 million on the table under the mistaken impression that better offers were coming.
(Note: This is by no means a definitive report, but I’ve heard Kirilenko was told by Minnesota that he had a three-year, $30ish million deal waiting for him if he opted out. So he opted out, and the Timberwolves screwed him.)
But he’s also got an opportunity to thrive as the team’s undisputed sixth man, and play every position that Andray Blatche and Jason Terry don’t play. He’ll spell Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Joe Johnson. He’ll ooze basketball savvy on every offensive play. He’ll become the favorite player of those guys that swear they like passing more than shooting. He’ll make basketball fun, in an aesthetic sense that the Nets had so rarely last year.
Jason Terry may become a fan favorite because he never shuts up and he JETs every time he hits threes, but Kirilenko will become a fan favorite because he’ll do at least one thing that no other player on the team can on a nightly basis. Just wait. -D.K.
Relevant Andrei Kirilenko video:
14. Jason Kidd.
My initial reaction to Kidd’s hiring was lukewarm. He’s an iconic figure for the franchise, players love him, and he has a keen sense of the game of basketball. Nevertheless, I couldn’t get the sour taste out of my mouth that Kidd was just another figurehead coach with Lawrence Frank pulling the strings, reminding me of the Kiki Vandeweghe-Del Harris disaster.
Since then, Kidd has been saying and doing all the right things, and his presence may or may not have catalyzed the trade with Boston this summer. Billy King went out and put together a great staff behind him. But this will not be Kidd’s team for the foreseeable future. He just doesn’t have enough experience. He has to see some games first.
He may very well learn, but I just don’t see the potential you get from hiring Kidd compared to an established guy. I think it will work out, and the Nets have the proper safety net in place. But that success will be more in spite of Kidd’s presence than because of it, at least at first. -D.S.
Relevant Jason Kidd Calvin & Hobbes Comic Strip:
13. Shaun Livingston.
I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to delve into serious thought on Shaun Livingston without reliving the image of his catastrophic knee injury, but if his play last year with the Cavaliers is any indication, Livingston will be just swell as the backup point guard giving some minutes to Jason Terry and Tyshawn Taylor as well.
And I hate to rag on C.J. Watson even more, but Shaun Livingston wouldn’t have missed that dunk against the Bulls. And if he hadn’t dunked all year, he probably wouldn’t have tried to. -D.S.
Relevant Shaun Livingston video:
12. Joe Johnson.
In an offseason punctuated by screams, boasts, and taunts, Johnson has made nary a peep, staying out of the spotlight ever since his 2-14 shooting performance in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference First Round matchup against the Chicago Bulls. Johnson earned praise from Nets head coach Jason Kidd, who noted that Johnson famously shot 9-10 from the field on shots with under 24 seconds left and the margin within one possession last season, including four game-winning field goals on four attempts.
His plantar fasciitis has had an entire summer to heal up — how the team’s highest-paid player bounces back in an entirely new situation for the second straight year remains to be seen. -D.K.
Relevant Joe Johnson Video:
11. Knicks TV.
Yes, Nets TV rightfully ranks higher, but that doesn’t mean that the Knicks play-by-play men aren’t really, really good at their jobs. Mike Breen is as good as any at keeping a pulse on the game’s momentum, and every NBA fan knows his “BANG!”. As for his partner in commentating, Clyde Frazier is a master of inventive syntax.
Yes, we’re a Nets-centric site. Yes, we’re partnered with YES Network (which has no bearing whatsoever on these rankings, by the way). Yes, the Nets TV crew ranks higher than this. But the Knicks crew is one of the best in the business. It’s no slight. I swear. -D.K.
Relevant Knicks TV Video: