New York Knicks Need Willy Hernangomez to Improve Defensively
Mar 25, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) is fouled while shooting by New York Knicks center Willy Hernangomez (14) during the first half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks need more on defense from young big man Willy Hernangomez. The good news is he has plenty of time to improve.

The New York Knicks center Willy Hernangomez has shown that he can be a starter. He was a steal for the Knicks when they traded with the Philadelphia 76ers to acquire him.

For just a rookie, he has displayed exceptional footwork, which helps him score in the paint. Hernangomez has shown the ability to hit the open mid-range shot that makes him an even greater threat.

Hernangomez has been compared to Marc Gasol, an excellent player to be compared to, for their similarities as traditional low-post big men.

Not only can he provide a little scoring but he’s a solid rebounder as well. In the 13 games that he has started for the Knicks, Hernangomez has averaged 11.1 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.

He is a guy that can produce a double-double on a nightly basis.

But every player has a weakness or something to improve on. For Hernangomez it’s on the defensive end. His defense is a work in progress.

According to Newsday‘s Al Iannazzone, Hernangomez after the Knicks loss to the San Antonio Spurs stated, “I have to be way more focused on defense. I think from the beginning of the season right now I improved my defense, but it’s not enough”.

He added,“One of the biggest things I have to work this summer is going to be my defense, so next year I can defend centers and power forwards.”

But just how bad is his defense? Well, looking at his numbers since the All-Star break opposing post players have their way with him.

According to, from shots six feet away he is allowing 4.3 made buckets per game. These are the shots that are coming within the paint. Opponents are making 61.9 percent of the shots. He is getting beat up and abused inside the paint by other big men.

He struggles to defend two-point shots in general. Other centers or power forwards are having tremendous success when covered by Hernangomez. Opponents are averaging 5.5 made field goals per game. They are shooting an efficient 51.6 percent.

The first highlight in the video above is an excellent example of Hernangomez struggles playing defense. Portland’s Jusuf Nurkic gave him a beating.

Hernangomez isn’t even averaging a block per game. Since the All-Star break, he is averaging 0.7 blocks per contest. Right now he is simply not an intimidating 6’11” figure on the defensive end.

The good news for the Knicks is that he is only a rookie, he has plenty of time to work on his defensive ability. He has shown that he works hard and should pick up his defensive play over time.

Originally from Long Island, Matt grew up as a die heart Yankees, Jets, Knicks, and Rangers fan. Matt moved to South Carolina when he was 13, but this did not stop him from watching his favorite teams. He graduated with a Bachelor degree in Mass Communications from the University of South Carolina Upstate. Other than a contributor for Elite Sports NY, Matt was a former writer for Skyscrapersports and currently is a writer and co-host for The Assist Podcast. He is also a sports reporter for Greer Today.