The Knicks are a lousy defensive team and that goes without saying. They were lousy in the years before D'Antoni and they are lousy now with D'Antoni. Now rumor mill has it that the Knicks want D'Antoni to hire a defensive assistant, a move that has a ton of support around these parts. I however see such a move as a half assed quick fix. If D'Antoni is not a good enough coach to get his team to play defense then he needs to be fired and the Knicks need to hire a coach who can get the team to play defense. Now I have highlighted three areas where D'Antoni has clearly fallen short as a coach and if he does these three things, he can shave 10-13 points game off the Knicks points allowed numbers.
Transition Defense- The Knicks are one of the worst NBA teams I have ever seen in transition defense. Getting back on defense is a basketball basic that is preached even in church league ball. Transition defense consists of two parts:1)getting five guys back in the painted area and facing the ball, and 2) stopping the ball. How often have you seen the Knicks not get five players back, or allow an opposing player to dribble the length of the floor and get to the front of the rim? You do not need to be a great defensive player to hustle back on defense nor if you got four guys behind you showing the front of their jersey's to a ball handler, to stop the ball. Chauncey Billups may not be quick enough any longer to keep Derrick Rose or Rajon Rondo out of the lane one on one, but if Rondo or Rose, see that there are four other guys ready to step up should he get by Billups, he will pull it back out and set up a play. The failure to consistently get back on defense is a sign that a coach is not stressing it enough. This is something that is easy to correct regardless of personnel if it is worked on enough. I do not care what defense you play or who you bring in to coach it, if you do not have players getting back on defense it will not work.
Defensive Focus- one of the things that annoys me to no end is how frequently Knicks' players are out of position on defense. Believe it or not people, just being in the right spot on the floor is enough to get stops. Again you do not have to be a great defender to be where you supposed to be on the floor in a scheme, you just have to attend to your responsibilities. D'Antoni knows this. I have seen some of his segments where he will break down a defensive set, and he will point out "Amar'e is out of position here, he needs to be two more steps over to the left," or "Landry needs to be up higher here, so that he can contest the passing lane." But my question is since it happens every game, how much time is he spending correcting this. When I coached AAU ball, I would physically place guys where they were supposed to be in certain defenses, to help them understand. Now I am not suggesting that D'Antoni take Amar'e by the hand and move him and say "stand here!" However, he has to do something to make sure that Amar'e Landry or whomever is in the proper position. Being one or two steps out of position can mean the difference between drawing a charge, blocking a shot, getting a steal, or allowing a lay up and an and one! You can debate whether D'Antoni's schemes work, but I know this, if guys cannot even get to the right spots on the floor they have absolutely zero chance regardless of what scheme the Knicks play on defense. Again this is on the coach.
Rebounding- Defense does not end until you secure the rebound. Part of the reason the Knicks give up so many points is because they are a terrible rebounding team. Sure getting a Center who is a good rebounder can help, but again the problem is coaching. You do not need to be a good defender or rebounder to box out. You do not have to be a 7 footer. When done properly a guy 6'8 can box out a guy 7 foot. However, I have seen high school teams that box out better and more consistently than the Knicks. Again, this is something that correctable, rebounding may be a largely individual statistic however it usually takes 5 guys to get it done effectively. The Knicks interior defenders often allow their men to get inside position far to easily, and too many times the Knick perimeter players watch the shot instead of box out. Getting players to box out, again can be done but it has to be worked on consistently. Everyone can box out, no matter who bad a player you may be.
The Knicks give up an average of 18 second chance points per game. Cut that by 50%(which could be done by consistently boxing out and rebounding as a team) and you shave 9 points a game off of your points allowed total. The Knicks allow 16 fast break points per game. Simply doing a better job getting back on defense and adhering to your defensive assignments could cut that down to 12 which is slightly above the league average. Now the Knicks gave up 106 pts per game last year. By just paying attention to these three details, the Knicks could shave 13 points off their points allowed total. That would put them at 93 points allowed per game which would have put them in the top 6 in the league. The things I have pointed out are not complex, they are basic fundamental principles for playing team basketball. They are not based on individual talent or skill level, yet if done could make the Knicks a good defensive team. It you look at the games where the Knicks did these three things fairly well they held teams under 100 points. What was the Knicks record boys and girls when holding teams under 100 pts this year? 21-5. These are things D'Antoni can do, but will he is the question.