The Knicks are a mess defensively. They have the fifth-worst defense in the NBA for the season, allowing 107.9 points per 100 possessions, and that has taken a step back to 110.3 per 100 during the current five-game losing streak. Assistant coach Kurt Rambis was given the task mid-season of taking over the defense, but with this roster — Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose are not exactly lock down defenders, and Joakim Noah is well past his Defensive Player of the Year prime if he could even stay healthy — it is like handing him a flank steak and asking him to turn it into a rib eye.
The Knicks are also just half a game out of the eight seed, and they know defense is the key to turning things around.
There could, however, be some roster changes ahead. The trade deadline is less than two months away, and the Knicks, like every other team in the NBA, are looking at their options. It doesn’t seem as if any move is imminent, but some members of the Knicks’ front office have labeled Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker as a potential trade target, league sources told ESPN.com.
The club is in need of tough defenders, and Tucker has earned a reputation as a strong defender over his five-year career. This season, he ranks 22nd among 80 qualified small forwards in ESPN’s defensive RPM. That might not seem like an elite measurement, but Tucker would certainly seem to be an upgrade for a Knicks club in need of one.
The challenge for the Knicks is they have to give to get — the rebuilding (even if they won’t admit it) Suns will want young talent in return. If I were the Suns I would ask for Willy Hernangomez, and if I were the Knicks I would counter with Mindaugas Kuzminskas. Would Phil Jackson trade picks for a rental defender like Tucker and a playoff push?
Tucker is the final year of a contract paying him $5.3 million, so the Knicks would have to spend this summer to keep him.
The Knicks may not get Tucker, but keep an eye out for them to go after someone who can defend on the perimeter as the trade deadline approaches.