Jerome Williams Starting SF?

According to my stat page, the Knicks have the 6th worst defense in the league. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has followed them this year, as they have failed to stop teams from scoring night after night. Even in yesterday’s 113-105 victory over the Blazers, Portland shot a blistering 60% (eFG). New York won not by a good defensive effort, but by outshooting them (61% eFG) and having a big edge from the free throw line (27 to 14). If the Knicks are going to compete with a lousy defense they’re going to need an offensive explosion every night, something their 14th ranked offense can’t manage regularly. However maybe instead of hoping for more offense, the Knicks should concentrate on improving their defense.

Last night Jerome Williams started his first game of the year. It wasn’t due to Lenny Wilkens making a rash change because of the Knicks’ embarrassment on national television the day before. The Junk Yard Dog was in the opening lineup because Tim Thomas couldn’t suit up due to injury. Hopefully the change will be permanent.

Starting Jerome Williams makes so much sense. In a team concept he fits in better with the first squad. While no one will confuse Williams with Bruce Bowens, he’d easily be the Knicks best defender of their starting 5. The Junk Yard Dog likes to hound his opponents and averages more steals per minute than any of the Knicks starters (and gets twice as many as Tim Thomas). From an offensive standpoint, while his game is unorthodox, he’s rather efficient in what he does. Take a look at the per-40 minute averages of the two players:

TT 15.6 45.2 0.99 14.4 3.1 0.8 2.6 1.6
JYD 12.6 52.6 1.18 8.3 5.5 3.5 2.5 1.6

While Jerome doesn’t score as many points as Tim Thomas, he also doesn’t miss as many shots, and he gets a ton more offensive rebounds. With a PF that likes to play on the outside (Kurt Thomas), the Knicks could use some extra rebounding, something Tim Thomas does very poorly. The thing that shocked me the most is that both players turn the ball over at the same rate. Visually I would have expected for the awkward Williams to have a higher turnover rate, but it’s just not true.

Let me ask a question. With Trevor Ariza still developing his jumpshot, Moochie Norris building his NYC house brick by brick, and Sweetney manning the low post, who would better complement the Knicks’ second tier, Tim Thomas or Williams? I’d say Thomas in a heartbeat. The reserves don’t need Williams style of play, because they already have an all around energy guy in Ariza. Trevor’s strong rebounding at SF would offset Thomas’ hyelophobia. Even though Tim-may is having an off-year with his shot, his jumper would be the best of the Knicks’ reserves.

Barring injury, Lenny Wilkens has yet to change any of his starters. With the Knicks performance considered average at best, he’s gotten a lot of pressure to shake things up. However which starter could Wilkens bench? Marbury and Houston are out of the question. Nazr is having a career year. And Kurt Thomas is immensely popular despite declining production. Tim Thomas started off the year horribly, and has been labeled “soft.” Benching him in favor of Jerome Williams would be the safest and most popular move he could make. It just makes sense on every level.

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Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).