Miles McBride is a hellacious defender for the Knicks, the most disruptive part of his game being his ability to blow up ball screens.

Calling a player a master navigator sounds like both a nickname you’d give a ship captain and something that Walt “Clyde” Frazier would be tickled to say on air during a game. 

Master navigator is also how I’d describe Miles McBride and his superb ability to mitigate screens on defense. It’s a trait that only adds to the already present allure that his defense has: not only can he face up with on-ball opponents, but he can also ensure that they run out of options while he’s on the floor, forcing turnovers and bad shots. 

It’s almost like torture, I’m sure, for the other team to see McBride on the court. His ability to be a disruptor and to cause that much discord is a bane for any offense trying to take advantage of the New York Knicks’ currently small backcourt rotation. For New York, it’s a breath of fresh air as they eek and claw their way back up and down the standings with only eight games left in the regular season. Defense has always been a strong suit they can fall back on if their scoring is not doing the job, and they managed to have a defensive rating of 105.9 for the month of March, good for second in the league overall

McBride played a huge part in that success defensively, which is even more impressive considering that OG Anunoby came and went earlier in the month with more elbow inflammation and issues. His screen navigation specifically helped keep the Knicks in games throughout March, which feels like it warrants a small breakdown. 

McBride’s game against the Detroit Pistons was an especially perfect sample size to take a look at, as he was disrupting their game plan in just the first quarter. 

In this clip, Marcus Sasser attempts to get McBride off of him with a James Wiseman screen at the top of the key. Wiseman then rolls despite McBride barely having been contained and is instead almost forced into Sasser’s area by McBride’s persistence on the play. As a result, Sasser’s shot ends up careening off the basket and it becomes an easy rebound for Isaiah Hartentstein. His presence during this play and on this attempted pick changed the timing of Sasser’s shot entirely. 

This video starts later than what the setup to it actually was, but this was another attempted screen on McBride from Wiseman that just did not have anything to it. Sasser manages to get switched onto absolutely no one, leading to a forced pass to Troy Brown that lands amongst three Knicks already ready to block his shot or collect a steal. It was McBride’s pressure on Sasser on this play that again blew up a screen attempt and forced Sasser to give up the ball, putting Detroit in a desperate shot situation. 

I do not mean to keep picking on Wiseman, but here he is again attempting to screen for Jaden Ivey, who struggled in this contest. Ivey uses Wiseman here to squeeze between Donte DiVincenzo and McBride, but McBride stays glued to his hip. He just sidesteps the screen attempt and contests his shot perfectly, leading to a miss. This was one of several times throughout the game where McBride did not fall for a soft screen or a fake screen from one of Detroit’s bigs, and it allowed him to contest almost anything the Pistons’ guards were chucking up. 

Speaking of fake outs not working on the guard, this was another error on Detroi’s part, assuming McBride would fight through a pick set by Chimezie Metu to help former Knick Malachi Flynn get space and finish with ease. 

McBride reads this entire set like a book and nearly ends up blocking Flynn’s shot with how high he is able to jump to contest this shot with both arms. Metu’s screen really did nothing to deter him or Precious Achiuwa who was also in the area and ready to contest Flynn’s shot. 

Miles McBride’s impact goes beyond his improved three-point shot, his improved shot in general, or his passing. It goes beyond what feels like his move from just a guard with defensive chops to a bonafide bench general with shades of Immanuel Quickley’s prior leadership. His ability to still fight through contact and contest shot after shot like this, despite getting hellish minutes as of late due to so many injuries to starters, is a sign that McBride is endearing himself to this Knicks team and coaching staff – something that can easily carry over into a potentially long postseason run. 

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