The New York Knicks could opt to pick a player not based on the triangle, but based on their horrid and dysfunctional defense.The New York Knicks have struggled on the defensive side of the ball the past few seasons to put it lightly. The team has finished outside better than 17th in defensive rating since the 2011-12 season. Since then the Knicks have finished 17th, 24th, 28th, 18th and most recently, 25th.
In a league full of quality point guards the Knicks have never been able to find one of their own. In 2012-13, the Knicks starting point guard Raymond Felton ranked 23rd worst of among 83 qualified guards in defensive rating (all guards played at least 20 games and averaged 25 minutes per game). The next season, under the same criteria, Felton’s defensive rating actually increased nearly two whole points.
But Jose Calderon would not be outdone the following season. He finished with the third-worst defensive rating in the NBA. Calderon trailed only a 36-year-old Kobe Bryant and a disinterested veteran in Kevin Martin playing on a miserable Minnesota Timberwolves team.
Shockingly, Derrick Rose did not prove to be a fix to the Knicks’ defensive woes last season. The soon to be former Knick finished seventh worst. On a side note, Rose’s backcourt mate Courtney Lee finished just behind Rose at eight. This was surely a case of Rose making his teammates look worse on defense, as Lee has had much better numbers in the years prior to last season.
The Knicks do not have a Defensive Player of the Year like in 2011-12 to cover up their point guard’s porous defense. The Knicks could finally fix a glaring weakness in this year’s draft with the selection of international prospect Frank Ntilikina.
Ntilikina will become a familiar name for Knick fans for the next month. At number eight, the Knicks are in the perfect range to select the 18-year-old. Ntilikina has all the measurements one would want in a defensive point guard. A 6-foot-5 point guard with a possible seven-foot wingspan and excellent lateral quickness, Ntilikina will surely be able to fix the Knick’s woes guarding opposing point guards.
For a team that switches as much as the Knicks do, Ntilikina will prevent the Knicks from getting burned by opposing teams. With his size, Ntilikina has the ability to switch on to most shooting guards and give up a rather insignificant height advantage, if any would exist. Better yet, Ntilikina could hopefully mitigate the need for the Knicks to have to switch on defense with his ability to stay with his man on and off the ball.
Look at the current elite teams in the NBA. Ignoring the Cleveland Cavaliers who happen to have the greatest basketball player on the planet, the top teams in the NBA all have defensive anchors. The Warriors’ Draymond Green, a front-runner for Defensive Player of the Year, currently has a defensive rating 99.3. Kawhi Leonard won the 2015 Defensive Player of the Year Award with a defensive rating of 97.1 and won it again the year after with a defensive rating of 94.9. Successful NBA teams have these types of grinders on defense. Ntilikina has the mold of one of these types of players.
Ignore the Phil Jackson‘s insistence on taking a player to fit the triangle offense, which contrary to popular belief, has not proven to be true based on his past NBA Drafts. Ignore the fact that Ntilikina may not be as polished offensively as other prospects or that he has played against lesser competition in France. The Knicks have not been able to stop guards from tearing up the scoreboard in five full seasons. Ntilikina fixes a problem for the Knicks. A problem that has haunted the Knicks for far too long.
Will the President of the Knicks pull the trigger? Fans will anxiously be waiting until June 22nd to find out.