Previously, I’ve discussed the New York Knicks’ defensive regression to mediocrity in depth. However, I skipped over one issue of the porous 2012-2013 Bocker defense: the fact that point guards carved this team up with ridiculous ease. As the upcoming season draws closer, finding a way to resolve this issue should be a priority. Problem is, there is no clear answer in sight.
Specific performances stick out, such as Stephen Curry’s 54-point explosion and Kyrie Irving’s 41-point effort against the Knicks. However, point guards in general found success against New York, as can be confirmed via 82games.com’s Team Production by Position Rankings. According to this data, the Knicks ranked 28th in the NBA in opposing point guards’ points and FG%.
Tyson Chandler took home the Defensive Player of the Year award for his stellar play in 2012, when the Knicks had one of the league’s top defenses. Last year, the Knicks sunk to 17th in defensive efficiency, and Chandler seemed to be only a shell of his former self.
To make matters worse, the Atlantic Division has a much stronger array of point guards coming into this season compared to last.
In the 2013 campaign, the Nets were starting a Deron Williams who battled injury problems year round. The former All-Star was unable to maintain his typical level of production until the final months of the season. The Boston Celtics’ Rajon Rondo missed a large chunk of the season (including 3 games against the Knicks) due to an ACL tear. The Toronto Raptors fiddled around with their starting point guard spot in 2013, flipping between Kyle Lowry, stat-sheet stuffer and Jose Calderon, distributor.
Coming into the 2014 season, these division neighbors will bring on a tougher challenge for the Knicks in terms of point guard play. Deron Williams and Rajon Rondo should be fully healed from their injuries come opening night. Additionally, Boston will require Rondo to be featured in their offense with the Celtics’ roster greatly reduced. The Toronto Raptors have shipped off Jose Calderon, meaning the productive Kyle Lowry has secured the starting spot at the point. The Sixers were the only team that backtracked in the point guard category, trading Holiday in a draft-night deal to the Pelicans.
With teams that the Knicks will meet 4 times in 2014 bolstering their one spot and an NBA where talented point guards flood the basketball streets, how does New York look to contain opposing ones in 2014?
As of today, the Knicks’ roster compared to last year’s doesn’t show much promise for improvement. There is the “addition by subtraction” argument, with Jason Kidd’s departure potentially opening up Pablo Prigioni to more playing time. However, with management pursuing a third point guard for the roster (good idea), Prigs could find himself playing even less time with the addition of a more potent offensive point guard (bad, bad idea). Beno Udrih, Bobby Brown and Jannero Pargo are among the names the Knicks have looked at as possible signees, yet none of them are an upgrade on the defensive end. Subsequently, signing one of those names would mean playing Pablo Prigioni – our best defensive one man – fewer minutes a night. I’m still praying for Glen Grunwald to sign Summer League stud Toure Murry to provide some defense off the bench, even at the expense of offensive spacing.
The only acquisition that caught my eye as a fan pleading for the team to improve itself defensively was the signing of Metta World Peace. As much as I love the signing, to say he’ll solve our point guard troubles would be overstating his defensive ability at this stage of his career. He was never the quickest player to begin with and since he’ll be 34 around the beginning of this upcoming season, it’s a daunting proposal to ask him to slide in and barricade point guard penetration. With the help of Steve Nash, last year’s Lakers actually ranked 30th in opposing point guard points.
The final option that remains at this point is relying on Tyson Chandler’s defensive anchor-ish ways, but this is contingent upon his playing to the level he did in 2012. A repeat of last season simply won’t do the trick, and hoping that Chandler returns to his peak form as a 31-year old playing in his 13th year is a stretch, especially when considering the injuries he sustained last year.
No offseason can swing by Knickerbocker fans without bursts of enthusiasm, angst and anxiety. While this summer has been an eventful one for New York, it hasn’t produced answers to the team’s biggest concerns. Corrections can still be in the works, but at the moment, the upcoming season for New York makes me feel more wary than exuberant.