Things are starting to look up for the New York Knicks, and it is no coincidence that their upswing is taking place as Derrick Rose is growing more comfortable with his new teammates. The former first overall pick in the NBA Draft is going to have a pretty tough assignment on Monday night. Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder are heading to Madison Square Garden to take on the Knicks, as reported by ESPN.
Now that he no longer has to share the ball with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook has blossomed into more of a superstar than he already was. The dynamic point guard has been putting up triple-doubles with what looks like the greatest of ease. Westbrook is easily one of the hardest players to defend in the NBA and his peers are fully aware of that.
Derrick Rose has never been known as a great defender, even when he was in the midst of his MVP days. However, his skills on that side of the ball have been adequate in the NBA. Rose is going to need some help in slowing down Russell Westbrook, though. New York Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek might have to utilize double teams and zone defenses a bit more frequently than normal on Monday night.
Another option for Jeff Hornacek is to utilize Courtney Lee as the primary defender on Russell Westbrook. The veteran guard was signed by the New York Knicks over the summer primarily because he has no qualms defending the best perimeter scorers in the NBA. Westbrook is a nightmare to defend, but Lee might view that as a challenge that he wants to take on.
Another decision that Jeff Hornacek has to make is in regards to which position that he wants Kristaps Porzingis to spend most of his time playing. Normally a power forward, the second-year star from Latvia has shown some tremendous potential when he recently started playing more time at the center position. Since he is up against bigger defenders, Porzingis can exploit them on offense with his athleticism.
Playing Kristaps Porzingis at the center position could lead to some problems. The Oklahoma City Thunder have two big starting quality centers in Enes Kanter and Steven Adams. They are both physical players, especially Adams. Porzingis has gained a little bit of weight since making his debut in the NBA, but he will have a rough time trying to bang bodies with Adams and Kanter all game long.
Playing Kristaps Porzingis at the power forward position could rob the team of a very valuable weapon that they enjoyed during their recent winning streak. It would also mean that Joakim Noah would need to be given more minutes at center. The New York Knicks seem to play a bit better when their offense is more open. Noah is capable of being physical with the Oklahoma City Thunder big men, though.
Carmelo Anthony could be the biggest key to victory for the New York Knicks. Since the Oklahoma City Thunder do not have an elite wing player anymore, Anthony has a very good chance of having a monster game. He might need to break the 30-point mark since Russell Westbrook will more than likely be putting up a ton of offense. Anthony might be utilized quite a bit at the power forward position if the Thunder find early success with their big man lineup with Enes Kanter and Steven Adams.
It should be a fun chess match between Billy Donovan and Jeff Hornacek in the Big Apple on Monday night.
[Featured Image by Rob Carr/Getty Images]