New York Knicks Need to Adjust Rotation to Improve Defense

By Chris Harrison
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Woodson can only play the cards he’s dealt and Tyson Chandler’s injury has hurt the New York Knicks in a major way, but Woody hasn’t played his cards particularly well so far this season.

Under normal circumstances, there would be a little more time and patience for experimenting and working in new lineups, but with the Knicks struggling and their defensive anchor out for an extended period of time, New York needs to get some wins so they don’t fall too far behind in the Eastern Conference standings. Woodson needs to change up his rotation if he’s going to fix the Knicks’ leaky defense and struggling offense.

Andrea Bargnani has had a few nice stretches of canning jumpers off the catch (he’s shooting 47 percent from the field through the team’s first six games), but he’s contributed little else and he’s disrupted the team’s flow at times. While he’s excelled at knocking down mid-range jumpers, he rarely makes his way to the basket, attempting just 11 shots in the restricted area over six games.

He’s racked up more than twice as many turnovers as assists, and his 2.8 rebounds per game average is just plain sad for a man standing at 7-feet tall. According to SportVU, Bargnani has only managed to get 5.2 “rebound chances” per game, the same amount as 6-foot-3 point guard Reggie Jackson and less than Kyle Lowry, who stands at an even 6-feet tall. He often finds himself woefully out of position to collect defensive boards and even when he’s there, he often lacks the tenacity to pull in contested rebounds.

While going small with Carmelo Anthony at power forward is still ideal, the center spot should be occupied by someone capable of providing rim protection. Kenyon Martin filled in admirably for Chandler last season, and while his minutes will have to be monitored (he should hover around 20 a night), he brings the kind of hardworking defensive-minded attitude they need right now.

This year, opponents have hit a paltry 36.4 percent of shot attempts at the rim with K-Mart defending them. He can also do a solid job replicating Chandler’s ability to set hard screens, which can free up teammates for both pick-and-rolls and jump shots.

The Knicks might be well served keeping a center on the court as much as possible. Cole Aldrich is a fringe NBA player talent-wise, but he has good size and length, and a willingness to step in front of ball-handlers to deter drives to the hoop. He won’t be expected to provide much production on offense, but he’s a decent offensive rebounder who should be able to get the Knicks some second chances.

The Knicks’ perimeter defense has been spotty as well. The Knicks switch far too often on screens, and I can’t help but wonder if this is because Woody doesn’t trust his guards to fight through screens as it’s something that few of them are particularly good at.

Still, in the interest of avoiding potentially dangerous mismatches, it might be worth giving Toure’ Murry a chance to spend more time at backup point guard. He hustles on defense and he should be able to contribute enough on offense to not be a liability. He could also be useful as a member of two-point guard lineups alongside Beno Udrih or Raymond Felton, more offensively-oriented guards.

The Knicks’ struggles so far this year have partly been because the amount of minutes given to subpar defenders. By giving a few more minutes to defensive-minded players, the Knicks could play adequate defense until Tyson Chandler’s return.

Chris Harrison is a New York Knicks and NBA writer for You can follow him on Twitter at @chris_harrison1.

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