One of the Knicks‘ biggest concerns this year has been defensive efficiency. They currently rank 23rd with a 111 defensive rating, far below their 4th place ranking during the 2020â€“21 season.
The dramatic falloff was a result of Reggie Bullock and Elfrid Payton leaving the team in free agency, a move that everybody assumed it would be positive after adding more offensive weapons. However, Kemba Walker has been a liability, providing nonexistent defense and spotty offensive production, and Evan Fournier has produced a similar result.
The Knicks needed their All-Star power forward, Julius Randle, to step up and have another elite season, but he has struggled on both ends of the ball, watching his three-point percentage plummet to 33.5% at his defensive rating elevate to 113.2 from 106.8 last year.
Randle believes heâ€™s playing great defense, though, the opposite message Tom Thibodeau conveyed regarding everybody on the team.
â€œI feel like Iâ€™m playing pretty good,â€ Randle said regarding his defense, via the NY Post. â€œBeing able to switch, guard perimeter players and post players. Versatility, being able to do that. So whatever coach asks me, whatever he needs me to do, Iâ€™m going to go out there and do it 100 percent. But yeah, I feel like Iâ€™m pretty good on that end.â€
Thibodeau indicated that everybody needs to contribute more, not just a singular individual. Communication, energy, effort, and positioning have all been negative factors leading to a sub .500 team.
â€œWe gotta get more from everyone,â€ Tom Thibodeau said regarding Randle’s efficiency. â€œItâ€™s not an individual thing. Itâ€™s a team thing, so we gotta get everyone playing better.â€
Randle currently hosts a -7.5 net rating, his lowest since the 2016â€“17 season with the Los Angeles Lakers. His offensive production has improved since then, but he has fallen away from his previous All-Star form. He connected on 40% of three-point shots last season, making him a more efficient scorer and adding a different element to his game.
At this point in the year, though, it is evident that the Knicks lack a star player to pair with a Randle. He, unfortunately, does not possess the quality to dominate at a level that puts his team in a position to win on a nightly basis. Heâ€™s not a Kevin Durant or James Harden level player, who the Brooklyn Nets have just a train ride away.
The players need to start taking responsibility for their performances, indicating in previous days that their energy hasnâ€™t been completely present. It seems as if they may lack a motivating leader behind the scenes to help elevate the squad.