It hasn't been an easy start to the season for the Knicks. After a promising start they lost seven straight before a dominant performance over the struggling Nuggets yesterday (109-93) stopped the bleeding. Even casual fans know things aren't going well. But who's to blame for the Knicks 3-8 record? And who isn't?

1. Carmelo Anthony Melo's been up and down to start the season and suffered through a shooting slump during the losing streak. His 23.9 points per game average is down 3.5 from last year (as are other categories) but he's still the same Melo, as evidenced by his near-heroic 46-point performance in a 102-100 loss to Utah Friday night and a brutally efficient 28 points on 10-14 shooting against Denver.


Iman Shumpert Shump is the Knicks' lone defensive standout and has played with increased poise on offense, basically becoming the team's second option. Ignoring the Utah game in which he sustained a hip contusion and played a single minute, Shumpert is averaging 13.8 points per on 50.5% shooting, including 53.3% from three, all career highs. He missed Sunday's game due to the hip injury but if the Knicks are going to claw their way back to respectability they need Shumpert back ASAP.

3. JR Smith Another year, another season of blaming JR Smith for everything that's wrong. While management debates whether to deal him and fans treat every off-the-dribble jumper he takes as an affront to all that is holy, JR is quietly putting together a solid season, averaging 11.4 points a game on 46% shooting to go with 3.7 assists. Yes, he sulks. Yes, it seems like JR always gives up the game winning basket (see clip above).

But if the Knicks trade Smith, Melo will be the only wing player on the team capable of getting himself a basket when things get bogged down. Starting in place of Shump, Smith's 10-16, 28 point, four assist performance against Denver showed how good he can be when he's right:


4. Amar'e Stoudemire Looking as spry as he has since he arrived in New York four seasons ago, STAT's post scoring is an essential part of both the Knicks' second unit and the triangle offense they are struggling with. He's off his minutes restriction from years past and is averaging 10.7 points and 7.7 rebounds in about 22 minutes so far, although he did sit out Friday night for "maintenance" (is he the G train?) Seriously, someone should throw a #tbt on this clip:


5. Jose Calderon He hasn't played a single game this season but Calderon better be important: his absence is the only legitimate excuse this team has for its struggles. Calderon's a killer three-point shooter (45.5% last season) and conscientious orchestrator who, if the original reports are to be believed, should be back this week after straining his calf in the preseason (note: never believe what the Knicks say about injuries). In his absence, this year's Knicks are basically last year's Knicks without Tyson Chandler. That crummy team won 37 games.

6. Pablo Prigioni Although Shane Larkin starts at point guard in Calderon's absence, Prigioni has been the team's caretaker in the backcourt. His cautious yet deadly three point shooting, transition intentional fouling and occasional offensive outburst (see his fourth quarter against Utah) have made him more important than ever.

7. Shane Larkin Larkin, an inexperienced second year player, is best suited to play a pressure guard role for something like fifteen minutes a game off the bench. Instead he's the starting point guard. He hesitates too often to shoot and his lack of size makes it hard for him to finish some of the looks he gets with his incredible speed. He's still a useful player, even if miscast, and should be in the right role once Calderon gets in the lineup.

8. Samuel Dalembert Starting at center, Dalembert is a solid defender and the team's best passer out of the low post. Sometimes he takes shots he shouldn't but the stats show why he's important: the Knicks allow less than 100 points per 100 possessions with him on the court and more than 110 with him off it. Trouble is because of age and offensive ability he can't play more than twenty minutes a game. There's arguably a Dalembert highlight in the Quincy Acy clip below.

9. Quincy Acy Acy, who starts at power forward whenever his wrist isn't bothering him too much, is an enforcer, happy to commit a flagrant foul and/or scowl as needed (or just because, see the clip). He makes the occasional jump shot but absolutely cannot make a layup. He's not actually a great defender, he just looks like one. Still, his grit and rebounding (almost six a game in about twenty minutes) are important, especially in an ever-gentrifying New York City (just kidding).


10. Tim Hardaway Jr. Hardaway shows flashes of potential and it's easy to imagine him as a great shooting guard, especially given his pedigree. But at this point he's an emotionally fragile, shoot first, second and third player on offense and an abysmal defender. He's been in and out of the lineup thanks to a shooting slump and his defensive woes (the Knicks allow more than 110 points per 100 possessions with him on the court; that is very bad). Most criticism of JR Smith is followed by the suggestion that Hardaway should get more playing time. The backup QB is always the most popular guy in town.

11. Jason Smith/Travis Wear Smith is a power forward with a smooth jump shot. He's a minus athlete who can't rebound, defend, dribble or do any of the other things that are generally considered part of basketball but his deadly midrange jumper has made him an important part of the Knicks' rotation and he's averaging just under eight points in about twenty minutes a game. Wear, a small/power forward hybrid, is an undrafted rookie who surprisingly made the team out of camp.

He's probably the most traditionally handsome of the players, is said to have picked up the triangle as well as anyone and has shown a solid jump shot of his own. He's averaging two points per game and he has an identical twin brother who did not make the Sacramento Kings roster this year (Thanksgiving is going to be awkward at the Wear house).

Not Ranked: Cleanthony Early (lack of playing time); Cole Aldrich (lack of playing time; should probably play more); Andrea Bargnani (injured; please go away).

Whose fault is it? So far it's a combination of personnel limitations, a rookie coach learning his way and players learning a new offensive system and a couple of bad breaks. With games against the Bucks, Wolves and tanking Sixers in the next seven days, we should know a lot more about whether the Knicks are capable of putting things together by the time next week's Power Rankings roll around.

You can follow Jonathan Fishner on Twitter @therealkingfish, and check out his blog The Real King Fish.