Our collective response to seeing the Knicks move into the top ten in defensive efficiency has been a sort of "Oh, word? Are you sure about that?". New York's D has had its moments, and it's won them some games, but with all that switching, all that trouble with screens in the backcourt, and all of Amar'e Stoudemire's matador tendencies, the defense sure hasn't looked that good for that long.
SB Nation's Tom Ziller dug into that a bit, and as a few of us have guessed, the defensive rating is swayed considerably by the fact that the Knicks just haven't played good teams. Ziller combed the statistics to reveal that these Knicks have held just three teams (one of them being the Sixers, so that's cool) to five or more points below their offensive rating, while allowing five teams to produce well above their typical offensive output.
Basically, New York's defensive rating is an "all things being equal" number, and all things are not, in fact, equal. Even still, Ziller notes that the numbers project the Knicks to fall around 17th or 18th in the league in defense once they've got tougher opponents behind them, which would be an improvement over last season, when the New York D ranked 22nd out of 30 in efficiency (although one hopes that the defense will improve to prevent that drop in ranking). And, of course, we're still holding out hope that New York's offense, with time and the addition of Baron Davis, will return to form.
For now, though, all the numbers say the Knicks suck, and even the ones that say they don't suck secretly say they suck. Excellent!