Can Jericho Sims help fix the Knicks’ lackluster defense?

Knicks center Jericho Sims hangs on the rim after dunking the ball for a basket against the Denver Nuggets.
Knicks center Jericho Sims hangs on the rim after dunking the ball for a basket against the Denver Nuggets.
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Despite constructing their roster with a win-now mindset, the Knicks are just 8–7 on the young season, and their defense has been a major problem so far this year. 

Part of their problems have surrounded the continued questions about their rotation, with several players looking to get more minutes, and head coach Tom Thibodeau struggling to balance the defensive and offensive strengths of their players. 

Enter Jericho Sims. 

The 24-year-old big man was taken in the second round of the 2021 NBA Draft by the Knicks, and has not been given significant opportunities in his two NBA years. 

Coming from the University of Texas, Sims stands at 6’9” and has fashioned himself as a defensive anchor whenever he’s taken the court. 

Through 50 games in the pros, Sims has played just 13.3 minutes per game, while averaging 2.5 points, 0.6 blocks and 4.1 rebounds. 

Over the last two games, though, Sims has taken the floor for 24.8 minutes, with 9.5 points and 10.5 rebounds each contest. He also boasted a .818 field goal percentage on 4.5 shots per game. 

That has come while the normally-starting center Mitchell Robinson was absent with a knee injury. 

Beyond his stats, though, the big man has been a fearsome presence in the paint, while denying shots on the perimeter with his superb movement. 

In the last minute of their matchup with the Nuggets, which they won 106–103 in a nailbiter, Sims made a massive stop on star guard Jamal Murray to help the Knicks top Denver in a critical game during their five-game road trip. 

Ahead of the Nuggets game, Denver coach Mike Malone had high praise for the young big man, calling him “one of the most athletic bigs in the NBA.”

His ability to switch from the paint and guard perimeter defenders is critical, as the Knicks have been one of the worst defensive teams on the three point line this year. 

The team has allowed 19.7 open threes per game (defined as a shooter with more than six feet of space between then and the next defender), which is the second-worst in the NBA. That represents 21.5% of all threes against the Knicks by opposing offenses. They’ve also given up the second-most threes to any team in the league per game at 14.1. 

Thibodeau, for his part, praised the youngster’s defensive acumen, and suggested that they could look to utilize him more going forward. 

“The thing I like about him is the pressure he puts on the rim. That forces the defense to collapse, and opens up other things for us. And he gets out his screens pretty quickly. He plays above the rim, and I like that part of him.” 

“He’s a very good passer. We haven’t seen that part of him yet, but we’ve seen it in practice. He’s got a big upside,” he said. “I like him a lot.”

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