The New York Knicks worked this off-season diligently to improve their offense. Signing veteran free agents Julius Randle and Marcus Morris will help their overall efficiency in the category, but their defense could falter.
The Knicks have several youngsters and vets with defensive upside or those who can compete at a high-level such as Mitchell Robinson, Alford Elfrid Payton, Wayne Ellington, Morris, and Damyean Dotson.
As a collective unit, though, they could struggle immensely. Payton isn’t expected to be the starting point guard over Dennis Smith Jr., and Ellington will also come off the bench. The only starters that have high defensive qualities are Mitchell Robinson and Marcus Morris. Also, they have Frank Ntilikina, who is a specialist in that facet, but he will likely earn minimal playing time considering his lack of quality over the past two seasons.
As the youngest team in the league last season, the Knicks will look to bounce back with a bit more experience and knowledge. Their projected starting five, Dennis Smith, RJ Barrett, Kevin Knox, Julius Randle, and Mitchell Robinson, have an elevated sense of defense and will only improve as they gain experience. While a majority of the lineup is undoubtedly young, that doesn’t mean they can’t be productive on both sides of the ball.
One positive about youth is their tenacious work rate and hustle. Barrett is a perfect example of that. During Summer League play, he struggled to shoot the ball but made up for it with his ability to run up and down the court quickly and move the ball efficiently. He could be surprising assist leader for the Knicks next season.
Another young player that could help is formerly undrafted guard, Allonzo Trier. He was known at Arizona State for his defensive qualities, which adds value to his play style. He’s an isolation scorer that can also help on defense, which could earn him extra minutes as he competes with new veteran signings to get on the floor.
Overall, the Knicks will have to rely on their fresh faces to pick up the defensive slack. While that is not an ideal scenario, it is one reality we have to live with moving forward.