New York Knicks need to improve their defensive versatility

SAN ANTONIO, TX - APRIL 02: Mikal Bridges (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX - APRIL 02: Mikal Bridges (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

Villanova took home the NCAA National Championship Monday night because of their unmatched defensive versatility. The New York Knicks should use the Wildcats as a blueprint for their continued rebuild.

The Villanova Wildcats went on their second magical run in three years, taking home another NCAA National Championship on Monday night. Watching the game, two things stood out about Nova’s team: 1. Just about everyone on their team could score from anywhere on the floor and 2. Every player could guard every position defensively. As the New York Knicks continue their rebuild, they should focus on Villanova’s defensive strategy.

Having five players on the floor who could guard any position was extremely valuable for Villanova throughout the year and especially on Monday night. Any time Michigan tried to set a screen, Nova would switch. Ordinarily, this is what an offense wants, creating a mismatch with a guard on a post player or vise versa. With Villanova, however, there was no such mismatch. Jalen Brunson could handle Moritz Wagner in the post and Omari Spellman could defend Charles Matthews on the perimeter.

Brunson, Spellman, Donte DiVincenzo, Mikal Bridges, Phil Booth, and Eric Paschall could each defend any one of Michigan’s offensive threats. No need to get through screens. No need for help defense. Just switch on screens and keep on defending. This made it extremely difficult for Michigan to get open looks and made a comeback near impossible in the second half.

Wouldn’t it be great if the New York Knicks could have a similarly dominant defense, able to defend anyone at any time, anywhere on the floor?

Well, Kristaps Porzingis certainly fits the mold. At 7’3, KP is a good enough athlete to defend guards on the perimeter and can use his length to block shots when they try to drive on him. Frank Ntilikina and Emmanuel Mudiay also have great length and could potentially hold their own against post players. And Michael Beasley is a tweener forward-guard who could potentially defend all five positions.

How do they continue to build a Nova-like defense? Well, bringing a superstar like LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard to the Big Apple would be a great start. Both players can defend all five positions and Leonard, a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, is especially known for his defense.

If the Knicks can’t land one of the big fish this offseason, they could look to the NBA Draft. They could take a player directly from Villanova by drafting Mikal Bridges. Bridges uses his Kevin Durant-like length to defend anyone on the floor and he’s also a great perimeter shooter and all-around player. Big men DeAndre Ayton and Marvin Bagley III are also likely athletic enough to defend guards after switching on screens.

Next: What the Knicks learned from March Madness

The New York Knicks should do everything they can to have a versatile defense with five guys on the floor who can defend any position. They have a few pieces in place but in order to get to Villanova’s level, they need to keep adding versatile, athletic defenders.