Knicks Defense Putting New Yorkers In a Bad Mood

A couple of months ago , before the season started, there was a lot of hyperbolic ecstasy about what a good job Phil Jackson had done in the off season and how this collection of seen better days veterans were going to turn things around in New York. Curiously, there was little talk about Carmelo as the anchor for this resurgence, but rather the future hopes of second year surprise lottery pick Kristaps Porzingis alongside veterans such as Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah making an impact, allowing the Knicks to be competitive and roll off some wins.

That was then, then is now.  The lens is clearer. We know who the Knicks are but not exactly who they may end up being, although it is hard to envision a scenario where Joakim Noah is the once upon a time Joakim Noah, meaning a player of impact. What the Knicks are right now are a dreadful defensive team, Mike D’Antoni-ish, which isn’t that surprising since Jeff Hornacek has never been known to be a defensive juggernaut as a coach.

The Knicks and their fans always panic too soon but there is reason to be cautiously pessimistic. The Knicks are in the scrum at the bottom of the conference. How bad? They are two games better than the 76ers which is all you need to know. They are not a contender by any stretch of the imagination and it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Knicks miss the playoffs (again).

They are 20th in scoring points. They are 19th in 3-point %. They are 17th in assists, 27th in steals. While the Knicks are not a great offensive team, they are better than they were last year and so, in a macabre way, Hornacek has validated his hire.

Consistent shot making was an issue last season and the faces have changed and their shooting is middle of the pack, not awful. Yes, Carmelo will have his nights and there is rejoice in that, but sadly, he can’t save the Knicks.

Knicks Offense Points Scored Assists FG% 3-Point % Offensive Rating
2015-16 98.4 (27th) 20.5 (26th) 43.9% (26th) 34.6% (20th) 104.6 (24th)
2016-17 101.9 (20th) 21.1(17th) 44.7% (13th) 33.8% (19th) 104.5 (18th)

The Knicks being offensively better fits in with the trend of the rest of the league minus a few bottom feeders like the Wizards and the Pelicans. But better is not good enough, not in New York.

Knicks Defense Points Allowed FG% 3-Point Defense Defensive Rating
2015-16 101.1 (10th) 44.3% (10th) 34.1% (7th) 107.6 (18th)
2016-17 109.8 (27th) 45.1% (17th) 37.0% (27th) 112.6 (30th)

The Knicks defense is a mess. You can blame the players Phil Jackson brought in who are old and useless. Courtney Lee is the worst defender on the team and he was brought in and paid big cash to stop wing scorers. His defensive rating is 116, worse than James Harden’s. Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings defensive rating is 115. Carmelo Anthony’s is 113 and Kristaps Porzingis is 112. The only good thing Joakim Noah is doing is defending. He is the best on the team, 107.

So far, the Hornacek coached team is getting an F in guarding their position. It’s actually comical that Phil wants Rambis to coach the defense, as if he’s the next coming of Tom Thibodeau, who by the way, has his Wolves not playing defense either.

The Knicks 3-point shot making is funeral.

Perimeter Shooting:

  • Carmelo Anthony: 28.9%
  • Derrick Rose: 27.3%
  • Brandon Jennings: 29.6%

Derrick Rose has continued his bread and butter in New York. Finish at the rim and pretty much be horrible everywhere else. 26% 10-16 feet. 33% on long two’s. Kristaps Porzingis is shooting 20% from midrange. Joakim Noah is a 25% shooter from 3-10 feet. Brandon Jennings is shooting 38% at the rim?

So, here is where we are. Phil Jackson passed the first test of his tenure when he delivered the Knicks a future star in Porzingis who is a versatile wing and an in the paint player. But. Jackson made some veteran moves that have depressed the Knicks on the defensive end. The Knicks are not a better team this year than they were last year. Last year, their defense kept them in games. This year, their defense is losing them games.

While Jackson is an easy target, (he wants more triangle not less), the Knicks are suffering the consequences of the Bargnani trade. They had no draft picks so Jackson couldn’t do what the Lakers and 76ers have done and develop a lot of young talent. He had to go the veteran route. Of course, the Knicks did a Knick thing by paying an old Joakim Noah $18 million and putting their hopes in an Achilles recovered but still can’t make shots Brandon  Jennings. Rose has had some solid moments even if he can’t defend anymore. But this is what money mismanagement does to you. You have to scrap the bottom of the barrel and then pretend you are surprised when mediocre is the result you get.

 

photo via llananba