The New York Knicks have started the 2012-13 season at 9-3, an encouraging start bolstered by several key wins. The team took out the Miami Heat by 20 to open its season and started with five consecutive double-digit wins.
When that kind of success occurs, especially when it comes somewhat unexpectedly, it comes as a result of two types of performances from the players.
The first is performances such as those given by Carmelo Anthony this season: a star executing what his team needs from him, when it needs it from him. The second is players outplaying expectations and contributing to the team in both big and small ways.
Luckily for New York, there are many players doing just that for them this year. J.R Smith is an early candidate for Sixth Man of the Year for his offensive production and defensive intensity. Rasheed Wallace has exploded onto the scene with play reminiscent of his olden days. Raymond Felton has proved that his first stint with the Knicks wasn't a fluke.
However, in terms of the ratio of production to appreciation, above all of those great performances rises one man who has quietly been one of the best players on the Knicks this season. Jason Kidd has been the most underrated player on New York this season.
He has contributed greatly in both quantifiable and not-quantifiable ways. Starting due to Iman Shumpert's injury, he has started every game and played 26 minutes per game. In that time, he has 8.2 points per game along with 3.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists. Even more impressively, he is shooting .529 percent from the field and an amazing .513 percent from behind the arc.
Those numbers are better than what coach Mike Woodson could have been expecting from Kidd in and of themselves, but there is more to it than just the numbers. Of his 20 three-pointers, many have come in crucial situations and several changed games.
His leadership is allowing the team to remain concentrated defensively and to maintain a controlled tempo offensively. He provides energy boosts with shots or big defensive plays when necessary and is capable of slowing the pace as well. He consistently makes the extra pass and often sets up open threes by penetrating and kicking the ball back out.
Finally, he is averaging an already-impressive two steals per game but is pressuring opposing teams into mistakes even more than that number suggests. His total of seven turnovers committed through 12 games makes his impact even more significant in terms of total turnovers.
Kidd has been relatively quiet in his production behind the big names of Carmelo Anthony and Rasheed Wallace, but he certainly has been effective. His experience allows him to dictate the game well for New York and keep the team cool in key situations.
Jason Kidd is the most underrated player on this squad this year, and New York needs to keep him involved upon Shumpert's return if it wants its early success to continue.