New York Knicks Must Be Elite Defensive Team to Capture 2013 NBA Title

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterJanuary 11, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 07:  Amar'e Stoudemire #1 of the New York Knicks celebrates a basket against the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden on January 7, 2013 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  The Celtics defeated the Knicks 102-96.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The New York Knicks have talent and star power. They have offensive weapons, depth and experience. But if they don't come together as a defensive powerhouse, an NBA title will be out of their reach.

As good as Carmelo Anthony has been, his offense alone won't be enough to knock off the Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder—or potentially all three—in a grueling seven-game series.

The Knicks are too hit or miss offensively to give an inconsistent defensive effort. With Anthony and J.R. Smith as the top two scoring options, the Knicks will need to become elite defensively to help compensate for the cold streaks caused by having a potent but streaky offensive attack.

New York won't be at full strength defensively until it gets back lockdown perimeter defender Iman Shumpert, but there are still in-game adjustments that need to be made to minimize the trouble caused by his absence.

Let's go over a few areas on the defensive side where the Knicks really need to improve.



Switching on defense has been a problem for the Knicks ever since the Knicks have become a problem: the post-Ewing, pre-Melo days

The Knicks give up too easily on perimeter ball screens, or don't anticipate them well enough. Jason Kidd is a saint to have on the floor late in games, but New York can't allow the other team to dictate whom he guards.

Take a look at how the Boston Celtics get what they want from the Knicks giving in so easily.

Jason Terry and Paul Pierce run a simple dribble handoff, which is an easy way to get Pierce the ball and hopefully force the switch in the process.

Directing traffic, Melo motions for Kidd to switch on the screen and take Pierce over the top.

Now, the 6'4'', 39-year-old Jason Kidd is forced to stick the 6'7'' Paul Pierce in isolation at his sweet spot on the floor. And it didn't have to be that way if they chose to just stick with their men and fight through the screen.

A playoff series can come down to getting stops in the final minutes of a game. There just isn't enough room for error to make these types of defensive mistakes in fourth quarter of games.

See the previous play in motion, along with some other defensive blunders that might have cost the Knicks the game to Boston in New York.


Amar'e Stoudemire on Defense

Amar'e gets his own section under the defensive struggles chapter.

Stoudemire has never been viewed as anything other than an explosive offensive weapon, an electric finisher at the rim. But if he's not making mid-range jumpers or scoring inside, Mike Woodson won't have a choice but to go with someone else during crunch time. He's just too much of a liability defending the pick-and-roll or the low post.

Check out how lost he looks defending a simple high pick-and-roll.

Let's breakdown this play, because it's the type of defense that doesn't exist on a championship-caliber team.

Amar'e recognizes the high screen, and steps out to prevent Nando de Colo from gaining a clear path to the rim. In the process, he looses sight of his man, the screener, who looks to slip the screen and head towards the basket. Amar'e reacts by chasing his man, while turning his head and loosing sight of the ball.

Amar'e's defensive instincts are below average for a player who gets regular minutes. He mentioned recently that no one has ever taught him defense, but fundamentals can only take you so far without instincts, something that can't be taught.

Some of it's being lazy, some of it's lack of recognition. Either way, the Knicks can't afford to give up easy baskets down the stretch and allow teams to stay in games.

If that means Stoudemire has to sit the final minutes of games to give the Knicks a more defensive-oriented lineup, then so be it.

If New York wants a shot at an NBA title, it has to tighten up the perimeter, defend screens and cut down on mental lapses. The Knicks will need a healthy Rasheed Wallace alongside Tyson Chandler to beef up the interior and an unrestricted Shumpert to defend opposing playmakers.

The Knicks have the defensive tools to shape into a suffocating unit, but they won't capture a title without using them to the fullest.