Most us expected to see D-Fish trot out some version of Tex Winter’s triangle in Summer League. But coming into Vegas his defensive philosophy was less clear. The team’s summer league performance has brought a couple things into focus.
1) More straight-up man with less switching.
Keep in mind that you’re likely to see pretty vanilla defensive scheming in Summer League for any number of reasons. So, a switching fetish is not out of the realm of possibility once the season starts and Calderon starts yelling “Git that!” at the sight of the first high ball screen. But still, based on what I’ve seen in a game-and-a-half my impression is that Fisher’s Knicks will play a fairly traditional man defense. Guards will be expected to stay with their assignment, fighting through screens and such. Bigs will still help on drivers, but without the incessant auto-switching. The team has added Sam Dalembert, Jason Smith, and (technically) Cole Aldrich and Melo through free agency and trade. Add STAT and Bargnani to the frontcourt. Then take away Tyson Chandler. That’s a strong signal that the team will play pretty traditional man.
2) More extended perimeter defense.
One potential defensive wrinkle from Fisher is extending on the perimeter more than we are used to seeing. These summer Knicks extend on the perimeter a good bit, way more than I expected. Antetokounmpo is hitting anything that moves inside the halfcourt line. Shane Larkin is also jumping passing lanes to swipe lazy passes. Now I have not seen much designed trapping and pressing, which leads me to believe that the Knicks are trying to delay opponents from getting into their stuff more than force turnovers. This was an under-appreciated feature of Jackson’s Bulls, and most notably Scottie Pippen. He’d commonly pick up a single ball handler at half- or three-quarter court and make him use up 8-10 seconds to even throw the first pass of the set. I could see Antetokounmpo developing into that kind of role.
Of course we won’t know anything for sure about Fisher’s approach to defense until we see the final roster, which could see another minor move or two before the season. Even then we’ll need to see the first few pre-season games to get a feel for his vision on defense.
A few final thoughts:
- Is Jeremy Tyler in danger of playing himself out of a camp invite? I’ve not seen all the games, but he certainly looked confused in the triangle while playing against the D-League select team. It’s a tough offense on bigs who are not used to creating. His indecision resulted in multiple turnovers and he appeared to let that frustration cause him to lose focus on defense.
- Conversely, is Henriquez playing himself into a camp invite – somewhere, if not New York? As a rebounder and rim protector, he certainly looks better than New York’s summer league bigs of recent vintage.
- I was never a fan of the Wear twins in college. My buddy Ty dubbed them, “soft as baby shit.” That said, Travis is skilled, particularly as a passer. He hit a very difficult baseline jumper vs. the Select team. He also got a turnover on a pass that would have been highlight worthy. It was a no-look job, and there really was nothing wrong with the pass. Whoever was on the break simply had no idea to expect THAT pass from a big guy handling the ball. I hope Wear gets some burn vs. Charlotte.