Since the arrival of Mike Woodson, even while Mike D’Antoni was still the head coach, the Knicks’ defense has employed a strategy that has been heavy on switching when defending the pick and roll. This tactic comes with considerable advantages, and is a philosophy that Woodson used effectively in Atlanta and early on this season with the Knicks, as well.
But the tactic has begun to leak oil, particularly over the last seven games. Rob Mahoney over at SI’s Off the Dribble blog had a lengthy take on what’s been going wrong, the whole thing is well worth your time:
Switching isn’t the only problem, but it’s a strategy that makes the Knicks that much more exploitable. As mentioned above, it lures Brewer, Kidd and Felton into needlessly doubling the post at times. It creates ample opportunity for opponents to draw the flat-footed Kurt Thomas and Steve Novak out to the perimeter, making the Knicks ripe for victimization in isolation scenarios that yield easy dribble penetration or virtually uncontested three-pointers (by virtue of Thomas and Novak’s sitting back and anticipating the drive). It reduces individual accountability for players like J.R. Smith, who was already prone to floating away from his man as if he were playing in a daydreamed one-man zone and now needn’t worry about that pesky back screen.
Now, reading that you’re liable to slit your wrists, as it reads a little like, “The Knicks are just the worst at everything,” and sort of depicts the Knicks’ D as the Wile E Coyote in some perverse Road Runner cartoon. I do think this overstates the case about the problems of the Knicks’ defense, which you could definitely argue has been mostly solid save for a couple truly terrible performances that have somewhat skewed the numbers. But I also tend to agree that the Knicks’ switch-heavy strategy may need some adjustment, as sometimes you just need to have guys fighting through screens. Too often, the Knicks are left facing more of the drawbacks of all this switching without enjoying the desired fruits of these labors.
Everyone wants the fruits, am I right? Let’s go get those fruits.