Why Do The Knicks Switch?

Jonah Ballow


As we reach the midpoint of the NBA season, teams are beginning to develop tendencies that will eventually become identities over the second half of the season and into the playoffs for 16 squads. 

One observation of the Knicks defense is their tactical approach to switch on screens.  For a team that only allows 96.3 points per game and sits in the second spot in the Eastern Conference, the gameplan has paid off thus far. 

Assistant coach Herb Williams provides an explanation for the switch defense:

“You are trying to prevent yourself from getting into rotations all the time.  If you are always chasing the basketball, the defense is never going to win.  At some point and time, you have to control that ball and that’s why we switch a lot.  At least we know where the ball is at, we know where we are trying to send them at, so we can control it.  But, if your defense is chasing the offense, you will never win that game.”

With big and versatile guards, Jason Kidd, Iman Shumpert, James White, and even Ronnie Brewer at times, New York can switch on the perimeter.  But how exactly does that assist the Defensive Player of the Year on the backside of the defense?

“It’s great for me because allows me to key-in on what’s really going on down low,” Tyson Chandler confirmed.  “When we are able to switch, it takes offense right out of what they are trying to accomplish. Obviously, you run the pick-and-roll, different sets to create mismatches but if you are able to switch it creates no mismatch.”

Chandler looks at one specific team, the Boston Celtics as a prime example of how Shumpert strengthens the Knicks switch defense.

“When we switch, it’s not a mismatch, Shump is big enough to handle Paul [Pierce] or quick enough to guard [Rajon] Rondo, so it gives us the ability to switch at the top,” Chandler added.

If the New York guards attempted to fight over every screen, players like Rondo and Pierce could have a field day working pick-and-rolls or they will find open driving lanes to the rim, placing even more responsibility on Chandler to protect the rim.

“What happens sometimes if you don’t switch, Rondo is good enough to get in the lane, Paul is good enough to get in the lane.  If that big hits that guard and he comes off of it then Paul is looking to go one-on-one,” Williams acknowledged. 

The Knicks continue to adjust the gameplan and lineups due to the significant amount of injuries throughout the season.  This is one aspect to New York’s defense that should improve and evolve over the second half of the year.

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