Metta World Peace has turned over a new leaf. Once known for a rarely replicated brand of physical defense, the New York Knicks’ new forward wants to play smarter, not harder, as Ian Begley of ESPN reported.
The Knicks were one of 11 teams to average 100 points per game last season, knocking down 37.6 percent of their league-high 28.9 threes per night. With Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton running the show, their offense wasn’t exactly among the NBA’s fastest, but they led the league in turnover differential by far.
New York forced 2.9 more turnovers per contest than it committed. The next-best squad in that department was the Milwaukee Bucks at 1.7.
In other words, the Knicks were a huge outlier. A simple regression to the mean would put their defense behind the eight-ball if improving the defense is a priority.
Defending the fast break a couple more times per night is not a good way to better your stats. The Knicks were already allowing 1.23 points per shot, sixth-worst in the league. Being on their heels for an additional possession or two won’t help.
Even though New York stands to benefit defensively from the presence of the artist formerly known as Ron Artest, it has too much expected playing time committed to almost purely offensive players. Beno Udrih, J.R. Smith and Andrea Bargnani will likely be key rotation players for the Knicks, but their names belong nowhere near anybody’s all-defense team.
Same thing goes for Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony.
New York can especially trust Tyson Chandler, Iman Shumpert and Kenyon Martin to do their part on the defensive end of the floor. If it wants to go big, Metta could be deployed with that trio, but who, from that lineup, would put the ball in the bucket?
There’s a good chance that any team with Carmelo at its core is better on offense than defense, and Knicks head coach Mike Woodson hasn’t changed that perception. With the exception of fewer free throws allowed and a marginal improvement (.002) in three-point percentage allowed, New York’s shot defense statistically got worse across the board from 2011-12 to 2012-13.
They trailed the second-to-last-place Cleveland Cavaliers by a half-block per game. Bargnani won’t boost that much, either, despite his seven-foot frame. Although he’s played as much as 35.7 minutes a game, Bargnani hasn’t swatted his way to a full block per game since 2009-10. Steve Novak, conversely, collected 17 rejections in his last 135 regular-season games (one start).
World Peace is a good teammate nowadays, but he alone won’t be enough to fix New York’s defensive deficiencies.
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