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NY Knicks: Ranking Every Defender on the Team from Worst to First

Joey RotunnoCorrespondent IIAugust 10, 2011

NY Knicks: Ranking Every Defender on the Team from Worst to First

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    The New York Knicks defense has been the laughingstock of the NBA for quite some time. Year after year, the team finds itself at the bottom of the barrel in defensive efficiency.

    It certainly doesn’t help either that the head coach’s philosophy emphasizes quantity of points over quality of defense.

    However, it appears management intends to halt this recent trend with the hiring of a defensive-minded assistant, as indicated by their recent interest in Lawrence Frank and Mike Woodson.

    Improvement in this area begins with the coaching staff, but success ultimately rests on the players’ laurels. Collectively, the Knicks may be poor defensively, but they do have something to build upon individually.

    Whenever next season begins, the present roster will likely be dismantled. But, until the new collective bargaining agreement is reached, the players remain intact.

    Let’s take a look at the current personnel and see how they stack up in terms of defensive ability and potential.

     

    *NBA stats compiled from Basketball-Reference

    *NCAA stats compiled from ESPN

17. Andy Rautins

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    2010-11 Per Game Averages

    Minutes: 4.8

    Defensive Rebounds: 0.2

    Steals: 0.2

    Blocks: 0.0

     

    Andy Rautins should have spent his rookie season on a rigorous diet and exercise regimen in the D-League. Instead, he appeared in five games with New York and did nothing to solidify his NBA future.

    Rautins was an active defender with fast hands at Syracuse University, averaging a couple steals per game his senior year. But, if he doesn’t add some muscle to his 6'4", 190-lb. frame, he’ll never be able to compete at the next level.

    Until his playing time increases, Rautins will stay buried on this list—just like he has been on the bench.

16. Roger Mason Jr.

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    2010-11 Per Game Averages

    Minutes: 12.3

    Defensive Rebounds: 1.5

    Steals: 0.2

    Blocks: 0.1

     

    Roger Mason Jr. will never be recognized as anything more than a spot-up shooter.

    Lacking exceptional speed or athleticism, Mason Jr. is only an average guard who serves as an offensive specialist with a knack for sinking shots from downtown.

    It’s no knock against him because teams can always use players who can shoot. However, when that’s your only attribute, you can’t expect many minutes.

    As a result of being one-dimensional, Mason Jr. is a liability on the court. At this stage, he’s north of 30 and lucky he’s still hanging around an NBA roster at all.

15. Chauncey Billups

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    2010-11 Per Game Averages

    Minutes: 32.1

    Defensive Rebounds: 2.3

    Steals: 1.0

    Blocks: 0.2

     

    It might be a shock to some that Billups is so low on this list, but let’s face it—Mr. Big Shot ain’t what he used to be.

    Billups’ size enables him to body up larger point guards and combat their post moves. However, he’s no match for the new breed of tall, explosive ones such as Derrick Rose, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook or John Wall. Even a smaller guard like Chris Paul will burn Billups off the dribble.

    When healthy, Billups is still an above-average scorer and—most of all—a leader, but his age and injuries are slowing him down on the defensive end.

14. Bill Walker

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    2010-11 Per Game Averages

    Minutes: 12.9

    Defensive Rebounds: 1.7

    Steals: 0.3

    Blocks: 0.1

     

    You might be wondering how Bill Walker could possibly beat out Chauncey Billups, especially given the fact that his defensive skills are virtually nonexistent.

    Well, if you’ve ever watched Walker on offense, he’s provided glimpses of raw athleticism (e.g. vertical leap) that could easily translate on the defensive side of the ball.

    Comparable to Roger Mason Jr., Mike D’Antoni primarily utilizes Walker for his scoring capabilities. But, an athlete of Walker’s caliber, with rapid reflexes and choppy feet, can evolve into a strong defender if he simply puts his mind to it.

13. Josh Harrellson

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    2010-11 Per Game Averages (NCAA)

    Minutes: 28.5

    Defensive Rebounds: 5.0

    Steals: 0.9

    Blocks: 1.5

    It’s pretty impressive that a second-round draft pick with no professional experience is rated above four other guys, but Josh Harrellson has the potential to be a game-changer for the Knicks based on size alone.

    At 6-10 and 275 pounds, Harrellson is a mammoth on a squad short in stature and a welcome sight in the wake of 7-footer Timofey Mozgov’s departure.

    Harrellson can shoulder some of Amar’e Stoudemire’s rebounding load while blocking and altering shots in the lane.

    If he can speed up his footwork and build some muscle mass, Harrellson may be a diamond in the rough.

12. Derrick Brown

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    2010-11 Per Game Averages

    Minutes: 11.8

    Defensive Rebounds: 1.2

    Steals: 0.4

    Blocks: 0.2

     

    Derrick Brown’s first two seasons in the league haven’t exactly been groundbreaking, but if New York is patient enough, they may have a lockdown defender in the making.

    Possessing a 7'3" wingspan and a 36-inch vertical, Brown’s versatility allows him to guard either forward position.

    He’s still a project on offense, but subbing Brown in for Carmelo Anthony or Amar’e Stoudemire could be a nice change of pace and put a damper on the opponent’s offensive strategy.

    Brown has excellent lateral mobility, and if he’d learn to box out—as opposed to relying on his superior athleticism—he could become a force to be reckoned with on the boards.

11. Renaldo Balkman

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    2010-11 Per Game Averages

    Minutes: 7.8

    Defensive Rebounds: 0.6

    Steals: 0.5

    Blocks: 0.3

     

    I’m still dumbfounded by what Isiah Thomas saw in Renaldo Balkman when he took him 20th overall in the 2006 NBA Draft. In fact, he may be the most atrocious offensive talent in the history of the franchise.

    What he does have is heart, and Balkman is a relentless pest of a defender. The problem is his offensive arsenal is so deficient that no coach, especially one so focused on offense, is going to grant him more than garbage time.

    Last season, Balkman racked up the equivalent of 2.3 steals and 1.2 blocks per 36 minutes, so he obviously can produce if given the opportunity. New York is merely a bad fit for his style.

10. Shelden Williams

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    2010-11 Per Game Averages

    Minutes: 15.4

    Defensive Rebounds: 3.1

    Steals: 0.4

    Blocks: 0.4

     

    Coming over as an afterthought in the Carmelo Anthony trade, Shelden Williams was a breath of fresh air when Ronny Turiaf went down with an injury.

    He won’t do anything dramatic, but Williams is methodical in the way he approaches the game. He’s also one of the precious few big bodies on the roster at 6-9 and 250 pounds.

    Williams is a power forward by trade, but he’s sturdy enough to guard centers.

    Although his steal and block numbers aren’t astonishing, Williams crashes the boards with a vengeance and can serve as a complementary defensive backup to Amar’e Stoudemire.

9. Anthony Carter

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    2010-11 Per Game Averages

    Minutes: 14.0

    Defensive Rebounds: 1.3

    Steals: 0.8

    Blocks: 0.2

     

    There’s something about Anthony Carter that I can’t quite place my finger on, but he’s an important member of this squad.

    During his restricted role, he constantly manages to spark the team and often finds himself in the right place at the right time to intercept a pass.

    He’s already 36 years old and hardly physically imposing at 6-1, but Carter possesses the intuition that many players never acquire. Perhaps that’s why he averaged almost a steal per contest over the course of such limited minutes.

    Nevertheless, New York can use his veteran presence next season.

8. Iman Shumpert

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    2010-11 Per Game Averages (NCAA)

    Minutes: 32.0

    Defensive Rebounds: 4.2

    Steals: 2.7

    Blocks: 0.2

     

    Although Donnie Walsh’s tenure as president of the Knicks may not have ended amicably, he sure wasn’t going to tarnish his legacy in New York with a mistake on draft night.

    Walsh knew that the team’s most pressing need is defense, and he chose to enhance it by selecting combo-guard Iman Shumpert with the 17th pick—the Knicks were desperate for more than a center that can defend.

    Chauncey Billups has become fragile of late and is not as agile as he once was. Toney Douglas is a remarkable stopper, but he’s too small to defend larger guards.

    Shumpert is bigger than Billups, as spry as Douglas, and he possesses the length and springiness in his step to even stick with small forwards if necessary.

    After averaging 2.7 steals during his final campaign at Georgia Tech, Shumpert probably deserves to be bumped up a few spots solely based on potential. However, since he’s unproven, a higher ranking is unwarranted.

7. Shawne Williams

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    2010-11 Per Game Averages

    Minutes: 20.7

    Defensive Rebounds: 2.8

    Steals: 0.6

    Blocks: 0.8

     

    Upon his arrival in 2006, Shawne Williams subsequently bounced around the league with off-the-court issues and missed the entire 2009-10 season. But, he may have discovered a stable home in the Big Apple with his drug offenses behind him.

    Williams is a lanky 6-9 power forward who made a name for himself last season with his silky long-range shooting touch. Contrary to his blasé demeanor, he also was an unexpectedly tenacious defender.

    At 225 pounds, opponents regularly outweigh Williams, but he doesn’t allow size to be a weakness. It wasn’t unheard of for Williams to take on centers on occasion, and his aggressiveness leads to a fair share of steals, blocks and rebounds along the way.

6. Jared Jeffries

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    2010-11 Per Game Averages

    Minutes: 14.3

    Defensive Rebounds: 1.3

    Steals: 0.7

    Blocks: 0.4

     

    Leave it to Mike D’Antoni—a coach who doesn’t know a defensive scheme from a hole in the wall—to put his stamp of approval on Jared Jeffries’ defensive prowess.

    Jeffries may qualify as one of New York’s most well-versed defenders, but he’s clearly overrated. In addition, his offense is such a handicap that leaving him on the court becomes a burden to his teammates.

    The Knicks should feel comfortable putting Jeffries out there in critical situations. However, since he shares positions occupied by Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, Jeffries likely will never be used during crunch time unless either superstar has fouled out.

    The Knicks should shop Jeffries during the offseason because this reunion has generally been a failure.

5. Carmelo Anthony

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    2010-11 Per Game Averages

    Minutes: 35.7

    Defensive Rebounds: 5.8

    Steals: 0.9

    Blocks: 0.6

     

    Say what? No, you aren’t hallucinating. Carmelo Anthony did crack the top-five on this list.

    Anthony continually gets a bad rap when it comes to his defense. Maybe it’s just that he’s such a rare breed offensively that everyone presumes he could direct some of that energy to the other side of the ball.

    Michael Jordan could do it, so why can’t he? If only it was so simple.

    This past season, Anthony vowed to become a better rebounder, and his mark of 5.8 defensive rebounds actually turned out to be the highest of his career. It was even slightly better than New York’s total boards leader, Amar’e Stoudemire.

    All legendary players eventually realize the impact they can have on a game with an extraordinary defensive effort. Sooner or later, Anthony will figure out that in order to carry this team over the hump, stellar defense must accompany his offensive skill set.

    Anthony has the physical tools to become a great defender in this league, so don’t be surprised if you notice a drastic change in that facet of his game next season. Besides, the criticism has reached a point in which he’ll relish proving all of his detractors wrong.

4. Amar’e Stoudemire

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    2010-11 Per Game Averages

    Minutes: 36.8

    Defensive Rebounds: 5.6

    Steals: 0.9

    Blocks: 1.9

     

    Amar’e Stoudemire is a nonstop recipient of the same type of denigration Carmelo Anthony has become accustomed to. His offensive game is so highly regarded that it’s impossible to meet expectations from a defensive perspective, yet naysayers steadfastly draw comparisons between the two.

    Many tend to overlook the demands asked of Stoudemire, including the amount of stress his body endured filling in at center for a significant stretch last year.

    In the midst of a Knicks revival during which Stoudemire had his most productive season scoring-wise since microfracture knee surgery in 2005, he also compiled what was arguably his best defensive output.

    Averaging just below a steal, two blocks and six defensive rebounds per contest, Stoudemire finished first and second, respectively, among his teammates in the latter two categories.

    If the Knicks can reduce some of Stoudemire’s workload next season through the acquisition of a center, his legs will be fresher, his body won’t feel so fatigued, and nagging injuries may be averted. In turn, the defensive imprint Stoudemire leaves on the court game after game will have a more profound effect.

3. Ronny Turiaf

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    2010-11 Per Game Averages

    Minutes: 17.8

    Defensive Rebounds: 2.2

    Steals: 0.5

    Blocks: 1.1

     

    Ronny Turiaf is an enigma. He survived open heart surgery, but lately, he can’t seem to get through a basketball season unscathed.

    If Turiaf stayed healthy, he could suffice as New York’s starting center.

    The adrenaline rush he injects into the flow of the game can be infectious, and his shot-blocking ability rivals that of any center in the NBA.

    A fan favorite, Turiaf has the potential to influence game play in a manner that sets a fire under his teammates and keeps them motivated.

    Mike D'Antoni likely has other ideas up his sleeve for Turiaf, who isn’t exactly D’Antoni’s archetypical center. But, he’s someone the Knicks should consider re-signing because he’s a bundle of energy that could be a vital component to a championship run.

2. Toney Douglas

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    2010-11 Per Game Averages

    Minutes: 24.3

    Defensive Rebounds: 2.2

    Steals: 1.1

    Blocks: 0.0

     

    He may be undersized, but combo-guard Toney Douglas is a menace on defense. A pickpocket on the hardwood, he’ll get under any opposing guard’s skin.

    In regards to lateral quickness, Douglas and Chauncey Billups are polar opposites—if Billups is having trouble fronting his man, D’Antoni can can trust in Douglas to stay between his opponent and the basket.

    Odds are Douglas’ job duties will expand for the second consecutive season as D’Antoni’s trust in him rises.

    As rookie Iman Shumpert gains experience, it will be interesting to see whether the coaching staff is brave enough to pair him with Douglas—New York’s reigning steals leader—in the backcourt.

    You never know. This duo could be a secret weapon of sorts, wreaking havoc on opposing guards for years to come.

1. Landry Fields

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    2010-11 Per Game Averages

    Minutes: 31.0

    Defensive Rebounds: 5.1

    Steals: 1.0

    Blocks: 0.2

     

    If only he can shake off the funk from the last couple months of last season, Landry Fields is a big piece of what the Knicks are trying to accomplish.

    He isn’t your quintessential shooting guard, but he doesn’t need to be on a roster containing two of the top-six scoring machines in the NBA. Since offense is secondary, Fields can concentrate on filling up the stat sheet in other ways.

    The Rookie of the Year candidate wrapped up 2010-11 as the league’s leading defensive rebounder among guards. The competition wasn’t even close, as Fields accumulated 54 more rebounds than runner-up Dwyane Wade.

    Fields also chipped in a steal per game for good measure.

    Wise beyond his years, it is Field’s basketball IQ—in combination with his physical attributes—that gives him an edge seldom observed in NBA newcomers. Fields has staked his claim as the Kevin Love among guards, and his best years are still ahead.

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