This might be the New York Knicks most alarming issue

Tom Thibodeau New York Knicks. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Tom Thibodeau New York Knicks. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /
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New York Knicks
Kemba Walker, Evan Fournier, New York Knicks. (Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images) /

The New York Knicks roster is discombobulated

Again, this is all hindsight, but you have to remember that shot creation wasn’t the only issue for the New York Knicks in their playoff series with the Atlanta Hawks.

The Hawks’ offense was overpowering for the Knicks’ defense — they had 4-5 perimeter players who could create off the dribble, and the Knicks weren’t athletic enough to keep up.

Maybe, adding better offensive players who also bring some size and physicality would have been a better approach. Guys who more closely fit Tom Thibodeau’s brand of basketball.

A few free agents from this past offseason who could have fit this mold:

  • Spencer Dinwiddie
  • Josh Hart
  • Reggie Jackson
  • Lonzo Ball
  • Alex Caruso
  • Cameron Payne

While young players like RJ Barrett, Quentin Grimes, and Immanuel Quickley have all flashed ability as being solid defenders, this issue of not having athletic defenders on the perimeter wasn’t addressed whatsoever.

Again, this is all hindsight and hypotheticals, but it’s worth pointing out because the Knicks defense has plummeted. 

The defense was supposed to be the constant. Even though Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker aren’t great defenders, Thibodeau’s system and the culture set in place were supposed to be enough to keep it solid. That hasn’t been the case.

Everyone was excited for Kemba to be back playing in New York. It’s a great story, but I mean, could Kemba Walker be any less of a Thibodeau-style point guard?

A small guard who struggles on defense and can’t get to the rim? I just have a hard time believing that was his first choice for a new guard this offseason.

Personally, I am someone who loves using basketball analytics and incorporating them into how I see the game.

Yet I feel that in this day and age of anybody being able to “analyze” a game with a computer, traditional basketball terminology, or sports talk from people who have played the game will sometimes get an eye-roll or not be taken as seriously.

Terms like “enforcer”, “grit, “setting the tone”, while they may be cliches, are very much a part of the fabric of a basketball team.

Last season, the roles were defined with the New York Knicks. There was player chemistry.

The starting lineup would set the tone. They were big, strong, physical players who get in your grill.

It was a slow offense, and sometimes it was to a fault. Even with the flaws of the starting lineup last season, everyone knew their roles, and they knew what was expected of them. That kind of comfortability matters.

The 2nd unit of Rose, Quickley, Toppin, and Burks — they were bringing the energy. They were a sparkplug unit. It was a beautiful yin and yang between the starts and the bench, and the Knicks had a working ecosystem.

Now, I really couldn’t tell you a lot of the roles on this current Knicks team. Is there a “2nd option”? Do Alec Burks and Immanuel Quickley have clearly defined roles?

It all feels discombobulated, and you see it in the on-court production. Every single player it seems has had horrible dry spells.

There is good reason to not want to play Obi Toppin at the 3 or the 5 with significance when you’re trying to win games. While Toppin has been a fantastic sparkplug from the bench, we have to be honest, he does really struggle on defense and he hasn’t shot the ball well whatsoever. In fact, his shooting has regressed.

With Julius Randle and Obi Toppin on the same team, there just isn’t that much space for Toppin to develop on the court. Toppin was an 8th overall pick, fan-favorite, who isn’t developing properly. That should be a story all too familiar for the New York Knicks.

This team doesn’t have an identity like they did last season.

For a player at any level of basketball, knowing your role and your spots and your responsibilities is so important to finding your rhythm throughout a season.

It feels like that lack of rhythm has resulted in the team being wildly inconsistent, and I’m not sure you can fix that midseason.

It’s just a lot of confusion, disorganization, and uncertainty. Even more important than the current season is what these things may mean for the future.