The New York Knicks actually owned a +3.1-point differential last season, as they allowed just 94.7 points per game—good enough for 11th in the NBA. That being said, several players will have to step it up on defense this season if the Knicks hope to advance through the ranks of the Eastern Conference.
Tyson Chandler was the Defensive Player of the Year last season in the NBA, and for good reason. He was a dominating presence under the boards all season long. All signs point to him playing similarly on defense this upcoming season, but one man won't be enough.
The Knicks will need everyone on the roster to make more of a conscious effort on defense. With the offensive potential that they possess, the Knicks will simply need to play enough defense to keep their team in the lead.
Even though they were ranked 11th in the NBA last season, it still wasn't enough to keep them from being knocked out of the first round of the postseason.
If certain players step it up defensively, there's reason to believe that the Knicks will become a more complete team.
Carmelo Anthony is a superstar on offense. His shot-creating ability is among the best in the league. That gives him no right, however, to be a slouch on defense.
It's no secret that Anthony doesn't really give it his all on defense. His lackadaisical play often leads to easy buckets for the opponent's small forward, and that's generally not a conducive strategy for winning games.
His defense improved a bit when Mike Woodson became head coach, but Anthony will have to keep improving this season.
His argument is that Anthony expends much of his energy on offense, which is a valid point. Anthony is constantly in possession of the ball, making him more likely to tire than other players.
The question about Anthony is whether or not he chooses to show up every night and play defense. With the Denver Nuggets, Anthony was solid on defense—when he wanted to be.
He'll have to set an example for his teammates this season, as he is the unquestioned leader in the locker room.
Amar'e Stoudemire is another player who is lazy on defense. He, like Anthony, has the ability to be an above average defensive player in the league. The problem is, he doesn't always apply himself on that end of the floor.
Stoudemire has always been able to block shots, but he's not a good perimeter defender against big guys that can shoot.
He also tends to play out of position a bit, edging too far out on the perimeter against guys that are incapable of hitting a jumper. He then stays out of position, leading to easy baskets by cutters.
Scoring has always been Stoudemire's forte. He'll easily give you 18-plus points a night with eight-plus rebounds and a couple assists. He may have to focus a little more on defense this season, though.
Just imagine an interior defense consisting of Tyson Chandler, the Defensive Player of the Year, and Stoudemire if he's dedicated to working hard on that end of the floor.
It could get really tough for anybody to score in the paint against the Knicks, and would help them to neutralize some of the bigger centers and forwards in the conference.
Jason Kidd's importance on defense this season is mostly based on the fact that he'll be starting alongside Anthony and Stoudemire.
There's no guarantee that either of them will improve defensively, so the aging-veteran will have to play at least average defense while he's on the floor.
If guards can get around him, there's no guarantee that a guy like Stoudemire can provide him with the help defense that he needs. This makes Kidd's work on defense key to the Knicks' game plan.
We may not see Kidd guarding many younger, quicker point guards face-to-face, as it will be much easier for them to catch him off the trouble. Don't be surprised if we see Kidd take a few steps back and guard against the drive into the paint.
Kidd has been named to several All-Defensive teams, so there's no doubting the fact that he knows what he's doing on that end of the floor. The only question is how much his legs have held up over the past several seasons.
If Kidd can play the defense that we expect him to, the Knicks defense will be better than expected. He just has to keep guys from getting around him.
J.R. Smith is undoubtedly one of the best athletes in the NBA today, and the excitement he brings to the game can often be the spark his team needs to keep playing hard.
That being said, his shot selection and defense are a constant headache for his head coaches.
Smith often wanders on defense, leaving shooters wide open to guard players that don't necessarily need to be guarded at that point in time. The gambles he takes seem to rarely pay off.
When on the floor together, the combination of Smith, Stoudemire and Anthony creates one of the worst three-player defensive tandems in the league.
Chandler can only save so much on defense.
If Smith can even improve a minuscule amount on defense, the Knicks will see a great improvement. It may be easier said than done, but Smith just needs to learn to stay on his man without wandering off.
Whether it means staying on the ball or staying with the guy that's a threat to shoot, Smith needs to keep his head in the game.
While his true value lies in his ability to shoot from beyond the arc, Smith can make himself exponentially more valuable if he plays a little defense.
Marcus Camby was brought in for one thing, and one thing only, this offseason—defense.
He may not be playing many minutes with Chandler ahead of him on the depth chart, but his minutes will most assuredly be very valuable.
He'll be coming into games to focus strictly on defense—blocking shots, grabbing rebounds and banging bodies with other big men will be just a few of the defensive plays he'll be asked to perform.
He's blocked 2.7 points per game in his career, while also averaging nine rebounds per game in limited time last season.
Camby instantly provides the second-team with the same defensive presence that Chandler provides for the starters.
If the Knicks want to compete with the deepest teams in the Eastern Conference this season, Camby will have to be everything they expected him to be on defense—and more.
The Defensive Player of the Year in the 2006-2007 season, Camby will play a big role for the Knicks this upcoming season.