Heading into the season, the New York Knicks were expecting to be a dominant defensive team, but late in the campaign, their work on that end of the floor still remains a huge concern.
With Carmelo Anthony and a bunch of shooters, the Knicks offense is always going to be relatively solid when the ball is moving, but things aren't so simple on D.
Despite having the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Tyson Chandler, in the middle, the Knicks are no more than an average team in terms of defensive efficiency, which is worrying considering just a year ago they were top five in that regard.
Things have been better recently—New York is conceding only 89.6 points per game over its last five—but this is something that will have to last until playoff time.
The Knicks are a team that has had stretches of good defense, but they've always been followed by patches of equally bad D, so it's certainly fair to question their consistency.
As a supposedly defensive-minded coach, there are some key changes that Mike Woodson will have to make for the Knicks to reach their potential as an elite team on that end of the floor.
First and foremost, his starting lineup will need to change. When Tyson Chandler returns, he should be joined by Kenyon Martin at power forward with Carmelo Anthony moving back to his typical small forward position.
There is an offensive advantage to having Melo at the 4, but at this point, that's far outweighed by the fact that he struggles to guard bigger players on a night-to-night basis.
Martin is a much better defensive power forward, and with the way he's played recently, he's earned a place in Woodson's starting five.
This move automatically makes the Knicks a better defensive team, but the changes shouldn't end there. That effectively sorts out the interior defense, but there are also some adjustments needed on the perimeter.
Outside of Iman Shumpert and the crafty Pablo Prigioni, the Knicks' perimeter defense has been weak all season. Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith are the main culprits but are too important to the offense to have their minutes reduced for defensive reasons.
Essentially, they let opposing guards get into the paint way too easily, making things much harder for the likes of Chandler and Marcus Camby.
A potential fix for the situation would be to sign free agent Delonte West. He's known for his aggressive play on defense and is capable of doing it at both guard positions.
Really though, this is a problem that needs to be solved from within. Effort and heart are all that's needed because Felton and Smith both have the physical capabilities to be good perimeter defenders.
Only last season, Smith made strides defensively. So it's not out of the question that Woodson can trigger that kind of change in both he and Felton.
Looking again to free agency, it may also make sense for the Knicks to make a move for Henry Sims to help out on defense.
The frontcourt is seriously banged-up with Kurt Thomas, Rasheed Wallace, Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire all out of action, so it would make a lot of sense to bring in some extra help.
At 7'0", the Georgetown product is capable of rebounding and defending the rim, and his youth could provide the durability New York is missing on the interior.
Besides a few tactical changes and roster moves, what this really comes down to is heart. The Knicks are a team that should be good defensively, and with less than a month less in the regular season, there's no excuse for continued mediocrity.
All stats are from Basketball-Reference and are accurate as of March 25, 2013.
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