Knicks’ Defense a Legitimate Concern

This Chris Herring piece in the Wall Street Journal highlights the struggles of the Knicks’ defense that have popped up throughout the season, as the Knicks have consistently given up too many open looks:

The Knicks, who play the Timberwolves here Friday, have left shooters open 66.8% of the time on catch-and-shoot opportunities, the league’s second-highest rate, according to Synergy.

Part of that is teams creating open space by exploiting the Knicks’ biggest weakness: one-on-one defense. The Knicks, sixth-worst at defending one-on-ones, have had to defend isolations 12.2% of the time, more than any other team.

When opposing teams haven’t run isolations against the Knicks, they often have gone to standard pick-and-roll plays. But the defense has only looked more lost when that is the case.

Brian DiMenna

The Knicks’ over reliance on switching to defend the pick and roll has caused no shortage of consternation for much of the season, but I was somewhat surprised to see that number regarding open opportunities for the catch-and-shoot, though no doubt the two phenomena are related.

To my mind, Herring’s numbers overstate the case about the defense somewhat, as it sort of makes it sound like opponents are freely dropping in baskets like a bunch of crazed Suburban mothers playing a game of SuperMarket Sweep.

But I also think it’s safe to say that the Knicks have been something of an average defensive team for much of this year, and that how well they defend in the postseason is going to largely determine their fate. But I also think they’ve clearly established that they possess one of the league’s premier offenses and that their defensive issues are not as dire as the above numbers might suggest. The biggest issue to me is that the Knicks haven’t been consistently good on the defensive end, because they’ve certainly played well at times and showed an ability to get stops when they need them, which is ultimately going to be the most important thing given how good they are offensively.

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