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NBA Playoffs 2012: Why the New York Knicks Need Jared Jeffries and His Defense

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 04:  Jared Jeffries #9 of the New York Knicks reacts to a call against him in the second half against the Boston Celtics on March 4, 2012 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Boston Celtics defeated the New York Knicks 115-111 in overtime. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Nilkanth PatelContributor IIApril 28, 2012

For Knicks fans, watching Jared Jeffries play offense is a fate almost worse than death. He has this habit of fooling you into believing he will score—he runs smooth pick-and-rolls, finds soft spots in the defense, and parks into the perfect openings to grab offensive rebounds.

But then, suddenly, he's forced into taking a wide open shot or putting up an uncontested layup, and before you know it, the ball has been swatted away from him, into the arms of a nearby defender. That's the Jared Jeffries we all know. That's the Jared Jeffries we have to live with.

That being said, Jeffries is not a part of this squad for his offense. He's here because he's the anti-Amar'e.

For every defensive assignment Amar'e misses, Jeffries is there, rotating to take the charge. That's why he is so essential to their success in the playoffs. Jeffries is allotted so many minutes because Coach Woodson loves guys like him: the players who hustle on every play, make up for lack of talent with effort and never stop pursuing the basketball.

Early in the fourth quarter, when the Knicks need to sustain their lead until they can bring their starters back in, Jeffries will play a large role in solidifying their paint defense. Jeffries ranks second among power forwards in steals per minute—his quick hands and significant wingspan allow him to combat power with agility. That makes him the key to their second unit.

J.R. Smith is a shooter, and though his defense has come around as of late, it's unreliable at best and always secondary to his offensive. Same goes for Steve Novak. And whoever they choose to go with at the point guard position (Bibby or Douglas), neither is a particularly fearsome perimeter defender. Jeffries must serve as the anchor for the second unit, much the same way Tyson Chandler does for the starting rotation.

Consider this: in the month of January, when Jeffries averaged nearly 25 minutes per game, the Knicks ended up with a 10-5 record. The team is 4-0 in games where Jeffries plays 30 or more minutes. This isn't to say that the Knicks are necessarily a better team when he plays more minutes, just that his energy and quickness is a highly undervalued asset for the team.

Back when Coach D'Antoni was still in charge, he took quite a few opportunities to boost Jeffries's contributions and address why fans feel the need to boo him. He wasn't just blowing smoke—Jeffries is incredibly important to the Knicks, especially given the potential absence of Tyson Chandler due to the flu. His knee has caused issues so far this year, but if he can recover and get back to full strength, he'll be an incredibly important asset to a long awaited playoff run for these tenants of Madison Square Garden.

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