By: Kento Kato
The Knicks were looked as a team that may be able to surprise some people if they were able to stay healthy. They brought in Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Courtney Lee to help out Porzingis and Anthony in the starting lineup and signed Brandon Jennings to lead a bench that remains shaky. The Knicks have been healthy so far but have struggled to pick up wins so far as they currently sit at 3-6 which places them 12th in the Eastern Conference. The main reason for this has been their putrid defense. The Knicks have seemingly struggled defensively for much of the millennium and it continues to be the case so far this year. The team ranks last in defensive efficiency and allow 109.8 ppg. Nobody thought that a team with the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose, Brandon Jennings and a coach that prefers to play up-tempo would be a great defensive team, but with Joakim Noah, and Kristaps Porzingis defending the paint and Courtney Lee, a solid defender starting besides them, I thought that this team would have at least been average defensively. The aforementioned Noah may actually be one of the problems so far. Once considered one of the best defensive big men in the league, he has been slowed down by injuries the last few years and doesn’t seem to be moving quite like he used to. He has just 7 blocks this year and that has led to the Knicks giving up 46.2 points in the pain per game.
Another part of the problem has been the rotation. As is often the case with a new coach, Jeff Hornacek does not have a consistent rotation yet. Kyle O’Quinn started the season as the backup center but has seemingly been moved down the depth chart in favor of Willy Hernangomez. There also seems to be a nightly dilemma of whether to play Brandon Jennings more, and if he should play with Derrick Rose. There are also fringe players like Maurice N’dour Mindaugas and Kuzminskas who sometimes play and sometimes don’t. And this is hard since besides Brandon Jennings, and Willy Hernangomez, the Knicks currently have a pretty weak bench. Lance Thomas has struggled with his shot this year after returning to the Knicks on a 4 year, 27 million dollar deal. After averaging 8ppg on 44% shooting, he is scoring just 4ppg on 38% shooting. Sasha Vujacic isn’t the shooter he used to be and probably plays too much given his lack of ability to do other things on the court. Justin Holliday is a player I would personally like to see play more as he has given us some solid defense and shooting and while he played 26 minutes and scored 10 points in a recent loss to the Celtics, there have also been games in which he has played less than 10 minutes.
Making all of this harder was the fact that the preseason wasn’t the kind that the team needed. Carmelo Anthony played limited minutes, Derrick Rose missed most of preseason with his sexual assault case, Joakim Noah and even Courtney Lee missed some time. With a new coach, and bevy of new players, the Knicks desperately needed a productive preseason to get in sync with each other. With that not happening, the Knicks have been forced to use a first couple weeks of the season to get things sorted out. That does not mean that things will definitely get better, but I believe that there is still hope. The offense has been pretty good so far and the defense and rotation could improve with some time. While the Knicks may not be the super team that Derrick Rose spoke of, they still have the ability to turn things around and make the playoffs in a still somewhat lackluster Eastern Conference.