Not too long ago, the New York Knicks talked about challenging the Miami Heat—a laughable notion with the Heat’s current win-streak, and the Knicks’ horrible losing streak. The team’s winning percentage is taking a nose dive, and there’s one major reason: defense.
The stats this season make it abundantly clear that the Knicks can’t defend opposing guards. And this week their biggest flaw has been on display. Numbers don’t lie.
The lack of defense at the guard position is a part of the reason that the Knicks have fallen to 16th in defensive efficiency so far this season. Last year they finished in fifth.
On Monday, the Knicks got torched again by Golden State’s Stephen Curry for 26 points. Curry confused the Knicks’ defense, getting them to switch or go underneath screens for no reason. They were all over the place. On Wednesday, the Knicks had to deal with Denver’s Ty Lawson, one of the league’s fastest players. Lawson finished the game with only 13 points, but coming off the bench, Wilson Chandler lit the Knicks up for 24 points.
Another embarassment came on Thursday in a loss to Portland. The Knicks were unable to stop Portland’s rookie Damian Lillard. He finished the game with 26 points and 10 assists, outplaying Knicks guard Raymond Felton.
The Knicks have been getting beat by quality guards all season long. Next up is the Clippers’ Chris Paul, and that won’t be too much fun for the Knicks.
Barring a change in personnel or scheme, the team’s porous defense looks to be like this for a while. Raymond Felton and the aging Jason Kidd are under contract for a few more years. Third-stringer Pablo Prigioni will be a free agent after this season.
The trio have struggled mightily with on-ball defense, giving up an average of 21.6 points per 48 minutes to opposing guards. Opposing teams have frequently exposed the Knicks’ lack of lateral quickness at the top of the key with pick-and-roll sets.
The Knicks’ defensive free-fall doesn’t bode well for the team’s playoff hopes. Coach Woodson needs to make changes fast; his aggressive traps aren’t working. Woodson needs to put his best on-ball defender, Iman Shumpert, on opposing guards. And he needs to do it soon.