If you went to bed early last night you missed a terrible bit of NBA news. Trail Blazers shooting guard Wesley Matthews, one of the premiere 3-and-D players in the league, was lost for the rest of the season after tearing his Achilles.
This news could possibly affect the Knicks, as Matthews was set to be one of the premiere unrestricted free agents on the 2015 market. And this guy would have been a prime target (He still might). For all the George Karl-inspired talk of going after a premier point guard to pair with Carmelo Anthony, a team that employs Melo needs to focus on improving their defense, particularly on the perimeter.
The modern NBA is a perimeter-oriented league, my friends. The current MVP candidates -- James Harden, Steph Curry, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook -- are all guys who operate mostly on the outside. And for all the talk of playing Melo at small forward, putting him out there defensively in today's smaller, faster NBA isn't a winning strategy on most nights.
In short, the Knicks need everything, but they what they really need in bulk are perimeter defenders. The Matthews injury underscores a crucial point -- relying exclusively on the free agent pool to fill this need is a dangerous option. The Knicks need to actually develop some perimeter defenders.
Fortunately, there are several intriguing candidates available next season...even after removing the hapless Tim Hardaway Jr. from consideration. Langston Galloway is short and not terribly quick, which could eventually hinder his chances of becoming an elite defensive guard. But the early results have been extremely promising. The players he guards seem to have quite a bit of trouble putting basketballs into basketball baskets, per NBA.com:
Cleanthony Early has the length and quickness to defend at a high level. He needs to build strength and work on that old Knicks bugaboo: defending the three. Opponents hit threes at 12 percent higher than their season average when being guarded by Early. Please, Derek Fisher, remind the kid to keep tabs on his man at the three-point arc.
And let us not forget Thanasis Antetokounmpo, chilling up in Westchester, doing stuff like this:
This is the main reason I still support the much-maligned Tyson Chandler trade. Sure, maybe they could have held out for the all-important first-round pick, but the Knicks needed to take a shot on multiple youngsters rather than place all their hopes on a single, probably late-first pick. If one the Early/Thanasis combo turns into a decent NBA defender to pair with the diamond-in-the-rough Galloway, then the Knicks will have made significant strides toward patching up a major weakness without dipping into the free agent market.
But hey, if you want to sign some elite defensive free agents, Phil, I wouldn't exactly be against it.