Jake Brown | Twitter |
The Knicks won't have a huge problem scoring the basketball. It's the other side of the ball that could doom them the entire 2017-18 season. Their defense is bad, and it's difficult to see enough improvement to put them in the winning column more often than not. This team is likely going to give up more than 100 points almost every night.
The Knicks' defense has been worse-than-average in 15 of the last 16 seasons. The only season they were not was the lockout-shortened season in 2011-2012. That was the year Tyson Chandler was the Defensive Player of the Year.
The last time the Knicks defense allowed fewer points per 100 possessions than the league average in a full, 82-game season was in 2000-2001, which was Jeff Van Gundy's last full season as Knicks head coach. The Knicks also ranked last in defensive rebounding percentage last season. They gave up 108 PPG, which was 23rd in the NBA, and they have already given up 113 PPG in their four preseason losses so far.
In the post, Kristaps Porzingis ranked as one of the league's best rim protectors last season. The issue will be the guys alongside him. Enes Kanter is not known for his defense -- he is slow and will have trouble against teams that run up and down the floor. Opponents could have some easy buckets if they push the ball.
Willy Hernangomez won't help the cause much, either. With him on the floor, Knicks opponents took 38.2 percent of their shots in the restricted area, which was the highest rate in the NBA among the 256 players who were on the floor for at least 2,000 opponent shots.
The key for the Knicks will be forcing turnovers, which starts in the backcourt. When Frank Ntilikina is on the floor, he needs to use that 7-foot wingspan to create turnovers and start the fast break. The Knicks also have to secure rebounds after a miss. They were the worst team in the NBA last season, giving up 14.7 second chance PPG. They need Kanter, Hernangomez, Porzingis, and Joakim Noah to dominate the glass.
When you go up and down the Knicks' roster, you see a lot of guys that are more known for scoring: Tim Hardaway, Jr., Michael Beasley, Kanter, Doug McDermott. A lot of it will come down to effort and guys hustling up and down the floor, diving for loose balls like we saw Ron Baker do in the preseason, and helping on defense.
The Knicks need to rotate better defensively and help guys out. We know Noah is usually the vocal leader on defense, but he won't be on the floor a ton this year, so other guys will need to step up and be vocal.
There's just so much that needs to happen for this Knicks defense to improve. They were dreadful last season, and maybe it improves without Carmelo Anthony. But the guys replacing him aren't defensive masterminds.
Jeff Hornacek is going to have a lot of shake my head moments and a lot of headaches watching this defense this season. Let's hope we are all wrong and they end up better than expected, but numbers don't lie. And those numbers point to this team being in the bottom five in the NBA defensively, which means it could be a sub-30 win team.