The New York Knicks are coming off a disappointing defeat to the Charlotte Hornets, their second consecutive loss. They now look ahead to the Indiana Pacers, who have a 5â€“8 record on the season and have won two of their last three games.
The Knicks need to do a bit of reflecting, though, remembering their elite defense from 2020 and how far the apple has fallen from the tree in just one off-season. Despite New York ranking 9th in overall points per game and 4th in three-point percentage, their defensive rating has been abysmal this season, landing at 25th.
The Knicks have various issues, but most of them correlate to a lack of consistency and chemistry between several new teammates.
Three problems the Knicks are facing as they prepare for Pacers:
1.) Starters are having cohesion issues
The Knicks’ starters have been poor the last few games, relying on the second team to pick up the slack after early deficits accrued. Julius Randle scored just 10 points in the most recent loss to Charlotte, and RJ Barrett has contributed just 11 points over the team’s past two games.
â€œThe bench played well, but we need everyone to play well,â€ Thibodeau said after Friday’s game. â€œItâ€™s a team, so you need your starters to play well, you need your bench to play well. You need them to play well together.â€
When both the starters and bench players are playing cohesive basketball and portraying an efficient strategy, theyâ€™re more than capable of blowing out any team and picking up wins at a fast pace.
However, when one of the units is grappling to get off the ground, the entire team is put at a disadvantage. The worst part is that the team has plenty of talent to work win in both the first and second-team units, but the chemistry and effort ebbs and flows.
2.) Julius Randle-Kemba Walker combo isn’t working
When the Knicks acquired Kemba Walker on a two-year, $8 million deal, they envisioned a totally different player at point guard after letting Elfrid Payton walk in free agency. Walker has had moments of brilliance, but his defense has lacked, and the ability to play off power forward Julius Randle has become a problem. Both players are scoring-oriented, so they need to find ways to balance the workload and opportunities.
Walker has proven to be a high clip three-point shooter while Randle looks to use his isolation moves inside. If they can work off one another and use their talents and strengths to maximize efficiency, they can be a fantastic duo, but they simply lack communication and chemistry at this point in the year, which was expected.
I would like to see Walker and Randle use the pick-and-roll more frequently, drawing attention to either, which would theoretically open up more opportunities. Until those two starters begin to hit their stride, the first team will likely endure drawbacks, but they have a long season ahead to fix these issues.
3.) Inconsistencies across the board
Inconsistencies have been a significant negative for the team, as RJ Barrett went on a phenomenal five-game stretch before losing his confidence and has shot poorly the last few games. Walker, despite a strong performance against Charlotte, went four consecutive games without shooting above 33% from deep. Randle has disappeared offensively at times when his energy is lacking, and Evan Fournier is simply lost on defense, especially around the perimeter.
â€œI definitely think thereâ€™s games where weâ€™re being outworked, outrebounded,â€™â€™ Randle said. â€œOur identityâ€™s not our defensive end [like] how it has been. But we know that. We know we got to fix it. We just got to keep working at it, just keep coming together and stay togetherâ€™â€™
The team needs to be firing on all cylinders for them to be considered a playoff-caliber squad, and that ultimately takes reps and action. They seem to get the hang of it one night and then take five steps backward the next, which is unacceptable for a roster with this much talent. There is no excuse for lacking effort and hustle, so starting there would be advisable.