When the New York Knicks hired a defensive-minded head coach in Tom Thibodeau, they envisioned that the team would be full of pests on that side of the ball. Now, that vision is becoming true, as the Knicks are seeing a very strong defensive group developing quickly in all areas of the court.
The Knicks have a valuable three-and-D guard
Starting off with the team’s best perimeter defender, Quentin Grimes broke onto the scene right away with his tenacity guarding the perimeter. In the 2022-23 season, Grimes had the third-highest matchup difficulty among all NBA players, showcasing the level of trust Thibodeau had in the second-year guard.
Grimes is in line to take another step forward in the 2023-24 season, as his all-around play on both sides of the ball improved massively this past season. If he does improve, the Knicks could have themselves one of the most valuable three-and-D guards in the entire NBA.
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Mitchell Robinson locks down the interior
On the interior, Mitchell Robinson is lined up for another big season defensively after having arguably his most impactful year as a Knick in 2023. Robinson’s 4.5 offensive rebounds per game topped the NBA last season, but he was very strong defensively as well, averaging 1.8 blocks (sixth in the NBA) and posting a team-best 109.5 defensive rating.
The seven-footer’s presence in the paint was showcased during the first round of the playoffs versus the Cavaliers. In the series, Robinson dominated the two-headed monster of Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen and was instrumental in New York’s 4-1 series win over Cleveland.
The Knicks’ bench unit is very strong defensively.
The Knicks’ second unit is one of the deeper bench squads in the entire NBA, with Immanuel Quickley, Josh Hart, Isaiah Hartenstein, and newcomer Donte DiVincenzo manning the unit.
All four of those bench players are strong defensively, with DiVincenzo and Quickley being solid perimeter defenders. Hartenstein improved as a rim protector over the course of last season, and Hart brings energy and hustle on the defensive side of the floor.
It is difficult for opponents to score against the group when they are all clicking. The addition of DiVincenzo could make the Knicks’ bench one of the most well-rounded in the NBA, and the ability to insert each of those guys into a starting role showcases the team’s true depth.
With the aforementioned position groups, the Knicks currently have a team constructed of well-rounded players who impact the game positively on both sides of the ball. If they play to their potential defensively, the Knicks could have one of the most balanced overall attacks in the entire league.
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