Despite the team's 9-3 record, the New York Knicks' defense has struggled the past three games. A combined 314 points have been allowed, and New York has gone from being best in points allowed to 10th. To add insult to injury, they lost two of those three contests.
A defensive jolt is needed, but the Knicks won't be getting the spark they really need until January. According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, second-year guard Iman Shumpert is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered in last year's playoffs and will not return until then.
Shumpert did great work on defense as a rookie, locking down opposing players and averaging 1.7 steals per game. His defensive efforts earned him a spot on the All-Rookie First Team. Shumpert also showed flashes of potential on offense, which bodes well for New York so that the brunt of the scoring work does not fall solely on Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire.
While that is all well and good, the Knicks need Shumpert because he just refuses to back down from a fight on defense. The team's man-to-man D has been substandard, and head coach Mike Woodson would be the first to agree.
Our effort on the ball in a one-on-one position, it’s been awful. It started in Dallas. This was unacceptable and awful — awful performance on our part. We got the record we have because the way we’ve been defending. Our defense has held us in and has created offense for us. Now we’re just trying to outscore teams and that’s not good enough.
Woodson could not be more right. Simply trying to outscore the opposition was the approach of his predecessor, Mike D'Antoni, and the Knicks need to completely distance themselves from that philosophy.
This makes it all the more important that Shumpert come back healthy. His return would immediately provide a spark for the Knicks on defense. He is a phenomenal athlete at 6'5", 220 pounds, and his speed plays a key role in his ability to come away with steals and break away for a dunk.
The rest of the Knicks have not been able to bring the same intensity in the former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket's absence. Jason Kidd is sixth in the league in steals, but is 39 years old and not the same athlete he was in his prime. Ronnie Brewer is a fine defender, but his sore knee is keeping him from being the full-on pest he usually is.
Is Shumpert the key to a Knicks improvement on defense?
Not even Carmelo Anthony can be a savior on defense, as he has his hands full carrying the Knicks on offense and upping his efforts in rebounding as Amar'e Stoudemire works his way back from knee surgery. Barring a massive turnaround from the aforementioned parties in the coming days, a fully healthy Shumpert seems to be the best way through which the Knicks can get back on track defensively.
Assuming his rehab is progressing as well as reported, his return to the lineup will be all the more welcome, and the results on defense will show it.