Jeff Hornacek hinted to reporters on Monday that the Knicks will be working on upgrading their defense during the offseason.
"I think if you look at our defense this year, we can use some more defensive players," Hornacek told Ian Begley of ESPN. "[Management] will look at that. [General manager] Steve [Mills] and [president] Phil [Jackson] and those guys will look at whatever can help us out. We know we need some help there."
New York has been in the bottom third of the NBA on defense throughout the entire season, which was a significant factor in the team missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season. However the Knicks will have a top-10 pick in this year's draft, and can have nearly $25 million in cap space to spend in free agency, depending on their decision on the future of Derrick Rose with the franchise.
In addition, New York remains committed to trading Carmelo Anthony in the offseason, according to Begley. If Anthony does wind up getting traded, the Knicks will look to replace him with a defensive-minded small forward.
Hornacek also hopes to see the continued development and improvement of some of the younger players already on New York's roster. The head coach highlighted the positive strides rookie second round pick Willy Hernangomez has made on defense this season.
"He gives us different options," Hornacek said. "He's got quicker feet, so maybe we can pull him up on screens more often, that might help us out. Playing [Kristaps Porzingis] at the 5, maybe with his length, if we keep him back. So we can be better from the inside."
The Knicks allow opponents to score 19 points per night from the free-throw line -- the sixth highest total in the NBA. New York has also given up the highest amount of offensive rebounds and second-chance points per game, in addition to the fifth-most points in the paint.
By adding both Courtney Lee and Joakim Noah (and retaining Kyle O'Quinn and Lance Thomas, among others), the Knicks hoped to instill some defensive intensity to this year's lineup last summer. The goal was there, but Noah's ineffectiveness and absence has given way to a big void.
The front office's mentality to shore up the defense by adding veterans proved Phil Jackson's head was in the right place. Such players have experience and had previously proven themselves to be reliable on that end of the floor. That's why the team should look to free agency once again to heal their defensive woes, even if it didn't work out the first time around. Veterans are proven players.
The Knicks will have two glaring needs this summer: point guard and defensive upgrades. The draft will have a boatload of talented floor generals to pick from. As both Kristaps Porzingis and Willy Hernangomez have shown, relying upon young players to lead and/or provide a pick-me-up to the defense could leave a team rather vulnerable. Both big men obviously have the tools to become strong defensive players, but it will take time for such athletes to build the necessary strength, awareness, and familiarity with today's players.
If New York is hoping for a more immediate boost to their defense, the rookie draft won't necessarily be the place to look. They'll have meaningful cap space and defensive-minded free agents should be easy to recognize. The Noah failure just proves that the team will need to target healthier players on shorter commitments.