NBA Rumors: 10 Defensive Players Who Can Help the New York Knicks
Is a picture really worth a 1,000 words? Not always. In the image associated with this article, a picture tells an entire story—that of the Knicks' ineptitude on defense, specifically down low.
Robin Lopez is a nice player, but should he ever be splitting two long and tall defenders en route to an almost uncontested layup? Very rarely, if ever.
The Knicks need a go-to scoring option like Carmelo Anthony alongside Amar'e Stoudemire to take the next step—see the end of the 101-98 loss against the Thunder for further proof—but some shutdown defenders are vital for the Knicks to get out of the sixth place limbo it's currently fallen into within the Eastern Conference.
Don't think for one second that sixth place limbo is temporary: Miami, Boston, Chicago, Orlando and Atlanta have no plans to regress next season, either.
Now, here are 10 players who can help the Knicks improve their defense, in alphabetical order.
Notes: I realize that some of the scenarios that I present in which the Knicks can get these players may be unrealistic if the NBA goes to a hard cap in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. For all intents and purposes, it's impossible to predict what the new CBA will bring, so we're sticking with the current rules for now.
Furthermore, in the slides in which I mention the possibility of a player being signed under an exception (mid-level, bi-annual, minimum salary), I am going with the notion that the Knicks would go after these players if they sign Carmelo Anthony and re-sign other players under the Larry Bird Rule, therefore rendering them unable to sign unrestricted free agents without said exceptions since they'd be over the cap.
One of the best defenders in the NBA, Shane Battier is a free agent after this season and is turning 33 before next season's start. He would be a huge asset to any team, not just the Knicks.
However, Battier will almost certainly find a place to start for at least one more season, and there isn't going to be room for him on the Knicks in the starting five, whether they get Carmelo Anthony or not.
If he doesn't find a starting role somewhere, what Knicks fan wouldn't want to see him shut down wingmen for 20 minutes per night off the bench for the mid-level exception?
Wherever he goes, Tyson Chandler is going to command a monster free agent contract. The only way he will end up with the Knicks is if the Carmelo Anthony signing falls through.
That being said, if it does fall through, Chandler would be one heck of a consolation prize. His defense has transformed Dallas, and one can say he is the second-most valuable player on the team after Dirk Nowitzki.
The 28-year-old Chandler is making close to $13 million this year and will most certainly command another monster deal, perhaps in the range of four-to-five years and $11 million-$13 million per season.
Samuel Dalembert is a curious case. A free agent after the season, Dalembert's value has taken an enormous hit after being sent to the bench in favor of DaMarcus Cousins.
He is averaging under 20 minutes per game (lowest amount since 2001-02) and has started only 15 of 39 games, having been a full-time starter for the past four seasons prior to this one.
Therefore, would the lanky shot-blocker sign a mid-level exception with the Knicks even though he is coming off making over $12 million this season? Questionable.
With 30 NBA teams out there, one of them could easily offer Dalembert $7 million-$8 million, especially since he is only turning 30 this season.
I don't see the high-flying Knicks paying for Dalembert at that price, and to be honest, he isn't a D'Antoni player to begin with, although he would definitely shore up the middle.
Free agent-to-be Marc Gasol is excited because he's a 7'1" center who averages over 11 points and seven rebounds per game while providing great defense, a rare commodity on the market in any season. In other words, he's getting paid.
Also, check out Gasol's most recent matchup against 7'0" Andrew Bogut, a former No. 1 overall draft pick.
Marc Gasol: 24 points, 16 rebounds, three blocks.
Andrew Bogut: 14 points, nine rebounds, three blocks.
Memphis won on the road, 94-81.
Like Chandler, Gasol will be commanding a huge deal and will be making over $10 million until 2015 at least for some team.
The Knicks can only get him if Anthony signs elsewhere, and it has been noted that he is Donnie Walsh's Plan B.
Technically, Iggy answers my headline question.
He would most certainly help the Knicks' defense and is one of the best perimeter defenders no one knows about, a fact that is overshadowed by the 76ers' poor play and his poor shooting.
However, this isn't happening. Would the 76ers trade their best superstar to a division rival, making said rival immediately better in the future?
Would the 76ers be willing to rebuild with the Knicks as partners? Are the Knicks going to go after Iguodala if they get Anthony?
No, no and no.
That's over with. Let's move on.
Technically, the 6'11" Jared Jeffries can help the Knicks with his length and ability to defend guards, forwards and centers.
In other words, he's a taller, older Wilson Chandler, with better defense and none of the offensive game.
There were rumors that Donnie Walsh wanted to acquire him back in the offseason, but he can acquire Jeffries for a box of Munchkins since he has an expiring contract and is currently buried on the Rockets' depth chart behind Patrick Patterson, receiving fewer than eight minutes per game.
Is the juice worth the squeeze with Jeffries? He can probably be signed with the bi-annual exception, but is it worth it for him to be a stopper for 10-15 minutes knowing that he isn't a scoring threat?
A blast from the past. Nazr Mohammed was a solid center for the Knicks but played fewer than two seasons in Madison Square Garden.
He is most adept at offensive rebounding, eating spaces and misdirecting shots with his freakish length.
He and Ronny Turiaf would be a great two-headed monster combination at center for the next one or two years, though one has to wonder how many seasons the 33-year-old Mohamed has left.
Mohammed is a free agent after this season and could possibly sign with the Knicks for the mid-level exception at most.
One half of the Jazz's two-headed monster at backup point guard, Price is not as good of a shooter as his other half in Earl Watson, but he is four years younger and quicker.
Like Watson, Price is also a solid defender and a free agent after this season. Either player would be a great fit for the Knicks at a low cost.
Nolan Smith is the best defender at the point guard position who can reasonably fall to the Knicks in the draft. The problem is that like Toney Douglas, Smith is a combo guard, even though he's seeing increased time at the point this year because of Kyrie Irving's injury.
Smith averages over 20 points and five assists per game, but he has committed 63 turnovers in 19 contests, which may turn off many teams looking to draft him.
The turnover numbers may turn teams off for drafting him as a point, and at 6'3', Smith doesn't have the ideal height to be an NBA shooting guard.
However, strictly in terms of defense, the 6'3" Smith would be an incredibly vital asset defending opposing point guards due to his length, experience and intelligence.
Watson had three steals in 13 minutes against the Knicks earlier this month. He is a perfect backup point guard, playing fantastic on-ball defense and controlling the game while Jazz starter Deron Williams rests.
Watson also has a 2.2 assist-to-turnover ratio, which speaks well of his intelligence and decision-making abilities.
He is a free agent after this season and is making just over $1.2 million right now. The Knicks could sign the journeyman with a bi-annual exception next season, but he fits perfectly behind Deron Williams, so perhaps the Jazz will aggressively look to retain his rights.
Battier, Chandler, Gasol, Iguodala
Dalembert, Watson, Smith
Price, Jeffries, Mohammed
Ultimately, the Knicks want to build their team around Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire over the next four seasons, at least. Although we all know how weak the Knicks' interior defense is, it is doubtful the Knicks will spend big bucks there any time soon.
Therefore, expect the Knicks to try and out-score every team in the 100's while acquiring some solid defensive role players in the near future. Buckle up.
I wouldn't be surprised to see the Knicks sign Anthony, re-sign Chandler and then go after Jeffries, Mohamed and/or Price in free agency, but regardless of what they do, the Knicks aren't going to morph back into the 1990's Knicks for a very long time.
Any other suggestions about how the Knicks can improve their defense? Post a comment.