With Jeff Hornacek at the helm and Carmelo Anthony leading the way, it’s possible the New York Knicks will never play solid defense.Yes, you’re wrong. You couldn’t be more wrong if you had claimed that Kobe Bryant was a better player than LeBron James.
You’re wrong, there’s no denying it. Defense is not a simple matter of effort.
There’s much more involved.
Agility, great hips, and most importantly, a sound awareness of everything happening is what it takes to excel defensively in the NBA. Those with a keen sense of the ball and adhere to fundemental principles are those who get along great with guys like LeBron.
If you are one of those who believes effort is all it takes to play good defense in the NBA, you’re probably the same guy who’s still holding out hope that the 2016-17 New York Knicks will eventually push that magic button that’ll transform the squad into a defensive bunch with serious title aspirations.
Those with a keen sense of the game of basketball understand what’s truly going on with the Knickerbockers. These select few actually realize this is as good as it’s going to get.
On Saturday night, New Year’s Eve, Jeff Hornacek‘s squad was thoroughly embarrassed by James Harden. The bearded one threw up a history night, just a robust 53 point, 16 rebound, and 17 assist-type performance.
This isn’t funny. Even the cruelest of Knick-haters couldn’t laugh at this one.
Former Knick coach Mike D’Antoni is coaching his way further into a blissful partnership with Harden and it’s paying off with the tag as the best offensive team in the land and a three-point clip that is on serious pace to break the all-time mark. We knew the Knicks wouldn’t hold the Houston Rockets to under 100, but what we didn’t know was that Harden would put up one of the most historic triple-doubles in history.
Don’t be twisted, though. Effort is a part of defense. Playing all-out on the defensive end and coming together with four other guys in making a well-oiled machine is a piece to the defensive greatness pie.
Sadly, effort doesn’t matter when the personnel isn’t set up to succeed on that end of the floor.
Take a look around the horn. Joakim Noah was a tremendous defensive player once upon a time, but, now, he’s a shell of his former self at 31 years of age. His 8.2 total rebounds per game is the worst mark since 2009 and it’s evident he’s no longer a stud thanks to the fashion he gets thrown around down low on a nightly basis.
Kristaps Porzingis, while tremendous on the weak side at times, isn’t a great on-ball defender and is always late to close on the shooter. Granted, playing a 7-foot-3 man at power forward will make a close out hard, but the 20-year old requires much more seasoning.
Derrick Rose is another culprit defensively. When Tom Thibodeau built that nasty Chicago Bulls defense, D-Rose was always the weak link in a terrific defensive structure.
Truthfully, the only two defensive studs the Knicks possess is Courtney Lee and Justin Holiday.
This only leaves one man.
Does Carmelo Anthony deserve half the criticism he receives? Probably not. Most Knicks fans love the guy simply because he chose to come to New York. He chose the difficult spot and the spotlight when very few superstars even flirt with the idea. (See LeBron James in 2010.) This notion, alone, deserves many heartfelt feelings.
He doesn’t deserve over-the-top digs. He does, however, deserve to hear the truth.
No team Melo is a part of can ever be called a dynamic defensive unit. Melo’s talents simply don’t allow that to ever come close to fruition.
While Anthony remains one of the most dynamic one-on-one players in the NBA, his defensive abilities are horrid. Compounding the issue is the fact that the Knicks personnel grouping forces Melo to play the 3-spot, a position he’s severely out-quicked at on most nights.
An example of Carmelo Anthony's limitations. The #Knicks fight hard and tie the game up yet Melo can't contain his man along the perimeter. pic.twitter.com/D5NrwXu5Ku
— Elite Sports NY (@EliteSportsNY) November 13, 2016
The only way Melo could be part of a tremendous defensive team is if all four of his teammates are studs on that end of the floor.
Here’s where Melo’s squads have finished in total defense each season of his NBA career:
- 2003-04, Denver: 19th in NBA, 96.1 PPG Against
- 2004-05, Denver: 17th in NBA, 97.5 PPG Against
- 2005-06, Denver: 23rd in NBA, 100.1 PPG Against
- 2006-07, Denver: 26th in NBA, 103.7 PPG Against
- 2007-08, Denver: 29th in NBA, 107.0 PPG Against
- 2008-09, Denver: 18th in NBA, 100.9 PPG Against
- 2009-10, Denver: 20th in NBA, 102.4 PPG Against
- 2010-11, Denver: 21st in NBA, 102.7 PPG Against
- 2010-11, New York: 27th in NBA, 205.7 PPG Against
- 2011-12, New York: 11th in NBA, 94.7 PPG Against
- 2012-13, New York: 7th in NBA, 95.7 PPG Against
- 2013-14, New York: 8th in NBA, 99.4 PPG Against
- 2014-15, New York: 21st in NBA, 101.2 PPG Against
- 2015-16, New York: 10th in NBA, 101.1 PPG Against
- 2016-17, New York: 25th in NBA, 108.3 PPG Against
Is it any coincidence that the three seasons Melo led the Knicks to the playoffs — 2011, 2012 and 2013 — they ranked 11th or better in total defense?
Not a chance.
To win the Larry O’Brien Trophy, no less big time ball games, a serious defensive structure needs to be in place. Look at the record: NBA teams have a difficult time showcasing a solid defensive structure with Melo in the mix.
Call Melo what he is. He’s a future Basketball Hall of Fame player and tremendous offensive stud. At times, during his career, he’s represented the toughest one-on-one matchup in the league.
What you can’t do is call him a championship-caliber player, solely thanks to his deficiencies on the defensive end of the floor.
Melo’s not the only culprit in New York. D-Rose, Porzingis, and many others create defensive problems. Lee and Holiday cannot do it on their own. Defense simply doesn’t work that way.
The Knicks are a .500 basketball team who’ll never contend because they simply don’t have the defensive talent to do so.