More Summer League Thoughts: What About the Defense?

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.┬áHis 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.


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Part-time blogger on the Knicks at and Seahawks at In my free time I hang out at the University of South Carolina and occasionally fill thirsty young minds with knowledge about various and sundry things related to consumer behavior and marketing.

6 thoughts to “More Summer League Thoughts: What About the Defense?”

  1. Nice article.

    I think the defensive choice on PnR is a little bit different than you suggest. The Knicks are having the big pick up the ball handler while the guard gets around the pick, so you are correct that they are not switching. But they are bringing in a third man (usually from the weak side) to tag the roll man until the big can recover to his man. The tag is then responsible to get back to his man. The danger with this defense is that you can give up a lot of corner threes. The positive is that you give up fewer straight line drives to the rim and also fewer easy catch and dunks for the dive man.

    I hope that Fisher can teach this defense to Amar’e. If one player does not get it, it will look really ugly.

  2. Larkin looks very good, quick hands on D and good instincts. Good change-of-pace PG.

  3. Summer League Kobe(THjr) has a serious green light. I wonder what he does on the Select team against U.S. Anyone know if those practices will be televised?

  4. I don’t want to read anything into a team’s defense until at least the middle of camp. At this point the coaches are seeing what the prospects can do. So MWP is an option again. I like it. His quitting last year was an obvious clash with Woodson. Let’s just say that if a player is not getting along with a coach, bumps and bruises might become “injuries”. If anything is clear now it’s that Woodson lost the attention of the players by December. Peace would bring triangle experience and defensive intensity to the roster. Good idea.

  5. Bringing MWP back, good idea – IF he has any gas left in the tank. He looked pretty done last year to me. Maybe that was a”clash of ideas” with Woodson, or maybe he’s just done. BCT & Fish need to figure out the answer to that question before bringing World Peace back to NY.

  6. Wait, World Peace can’t play for the Knicks next year… He just became the girls varsity coach at my local high school! (A contract is a contract– as we Knick fans are all too familiar with!)

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