The New York Knicks are not a good defensive team. They rank 25th in points allowed per 100 possessions, and they’ve at times looked much, much worse than that.
Head coach Jeff Hornacek, naturally, isn’t happy about his team’s defensive stands. And he was particularly frustrated after the Knicks relinquished 115 points to the usually anemic Orlando Magic. Per the New York Post‘s Marc Berman:
“I don’t think our guys aren’t trying — maybe they’re not capable,’’ Hornacek said. “I don’t know. That’s what we have to figure out. Maybe play some other guys and mix the lineup somehow.
“We have to find someone to play some defense. You can’t come out at the beginning and their first three baskets are 3s. You have to have better pride than that. … I think they’re trying — they must not be good enough defensively.’’
Hornacek suggested the coaching staff may need to come up with new, tricky schemes to compensate.
“We might figure out ways to trap,’’ Hornacek said. “Coaches are going to have to meet and try to figure it out, defensively, what is going to help us out.’’
Unfortunately for the Knicks, Hornacek probably as a point.
This squad is unlikely to get any better on the less glamorous end. Many of their most important players are career defensive minuses and sieves—including Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings. At this point in his career, Joakim Noah is solely valuable as the guy who camps out under the rim and contests shots; he should not be defending in space or on switches. And Kristaps Porzingis is still learning how to exist while defending outside the paint as well.
Courtney Lee (when healthy), Lance Thomas and Justin Holiday can, on their best nights, be solid perimeter pests. And Kyle O’Quinn is an understated defender, particularly when he plays the 5. But the Knicks don’t employ this vast collection of plus-stoppers, nor are they dealing with a bunch of young guys who might improve.
Failing some unforeseen trade at the deadline—an unlikely scenario given their dearth of movable assets—hovering around the bottom five of defensive efficiency looks like an inescapable status quo.