Former NBA champion Richard Jefferson had his fair share of New York Knicks‘ diss in the past. But this time, the former New Jersey Net-turned-Nets games analyst is giving their rivals across the borough flowers amid an eight-game winning streak.
Jefferson believes the Knicks’ resurgent defense that turned their season from teetering on the brink to the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference is sustainable.
“Sustainable is one thing but I think this is who [the Knicks] are. And the best thing about winning streaks, in my opinion, is it confirms sometimes to the coaches. And it confirms to the players like hey, ‘this is how we’re going to win. This is how we’re going to be successful.’
So, to get that type of, ‘hey, if we play top-five, top-seven, top-three level defense, we’re going to win a lot of games. And I think you can’t under understate the addition of [Jalen] Brunson and what he’s done — the stability on the offense and having another guy, a go-to-type of player. You got RJ Barrett, you got Julius Randle, and I think having that point guard has brought them a lot of stability, especially late in games. And he’s got a great relationship with Thibs (Tom Thibodeau) so I think that the defense is sustainable, in my opinion.”Richard Jefferson told Empire Sports Media on ESPN Conference Call
After their eighth straight win — a 38-point rout of the Stephen Curry-less Golden State Warriors — on Tuesday night, the Knicks now boast the seventh-best defensive rating (110.4) in the league, one notch above the Boston Celtics.
Zooming in to their current active longest winning streak, the Knicks are the best defensive team in the NBA by a mile, the only team that is giving up under 100 points (98.9) per 100 possessions.
JJ Redick, who will call the shots of the Knicks-Philadelphia 76ers Christmas Game, along with Ryan Ruocco and Filipino-American courtside reporter Cassidy Hubarth, agrees with Jefferson.
“I think that addition or the insertion more frequently of Quentin Grimes and Miles McBride has made a huge difference for their defense. And it’s sustainable. We’ve seen Tom Thibodeau have top-five defenses. He can build a good defense.”JJ Redick told Empire Sports Media on ESPN Conference Call
It is no coincidence that the Knicks started their winning streak when McBride supplanted Derrick Rose in the regular rotation. McBride’s activity has tightened and provided continuity of the Knicks’ point of attack and perimeter defense from Grimes in the starting unit to him and Immanuel Quickley in the second group.
What’s inspiring sustainability is the Knicks are playing with a top-level defense with their young guys. Seven of their nine-man rotation are 25 and under.
But Redick was quick to caution, labeling the Knicks as a legitimate contender. Perhaps because of their youth and lack of star power. No team since the Detroit Pistons in 2004 has won an NBA championship without a top-10, top-15 player.
Can the 26-year-old Brunson develop into one?
“Are they legit? I’ll hold off on calling them a legit contender right now. But it’s certainly exciting to see them winning basketball games and playing good basketball. Most people know this, I love Jalen, and he’s quickly gone from people thinking he’s overpaid to he’s actually very underpaid. He’s legit.”JJ Redick told Empire Sports Media on ESPN Conference Call
Brunson’s emergence as an All-Star candidate is one of the biggest factors apart from their resurgent defense that has catapulted the Knicks into the playoff conversations.
Brunson’s clutch shooting and leadership have stabilized the Knicks’ backcourt, their biggest weakness during their playoff run in 2021.
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