The New York Knicks have relied on their big men so far this season, despite the NBA trend of going small, and they’re currently just one game out of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.
As they look to build on their success, there is one glaring hole in their game: No team is shooting fewer three-pointers per game (21.7) so far this season. Kristaps Porzingis is dominating as a scorer both in the paint and beyond the arc, but the rest of the team is not getting those chances.
Since the absence of injured wing Tim Hardaway Jr., that rate has dropped (19) to more than four attempts fewer than the next-lowest total in the league.
According to Cleaning The Glass, the Knicks take three-point attempts 4.5 percent more often when Hardaway Jr. is on the court. Jeff Hornacek, the head coach of the team, has said he is aware of the issue (via New York Daily News):
“Of course I want more. We’re not getting many. Some of them, we are passing up. We’re not getting the penetration sometimes to kick it out. On the break, they got to be able to let them fly.”
Perhaps the problem comes from a lack of ball distribution. Only 7.1 percent of their passes have turned into assists, which is the second-worst rate in the Eastern Conference.
It’s not shocking considering how little ball movement has occurred for the team considering the majority of their payroll is devoted to big men.
Kyle O’Quinn, one of the various bigs on the team, may be on his way out before the upcoming trade deadline. But it may be too little, too late for the composition of their roster.
At point guard, they have two minimum-contract veterans who are both over 30 years old and a rookie who doesn’t turn 20 years old until July 28, 2018.
This has led the team to take far too many poor shots, as they rank last overall (23 percent) in pull-up three-pointer field goal efficiency.
Yaron Weitzman, however, explains that their players have performed well when they have taken catch-and-shoot attempts (via Bleacher Report):
“Their wings would get more opportunities to let the ball fly if Porzingis, [Enes] Kanter and [Michael] Beasley tried passing around traffic as opposed to shooting over it.”
Only the Golden State Warriors have a better catch-and-shoot field goal percentage this season. New York is shooting 38.7 percent from downtown when taking catch-and-shoot three-pointers, which ranks Top 5 in the East.
But they rank last in the East (16.6) for attempts per game. They have not found a true spot-up shooter on their roster, as they have run this play type (15.3 percent) fewer than any other team in their conference.
Last season, this is something they relied on from 6-foot-8 forward Lance Thomas. In fact, most of his offense (53.2 percent frequency) came from this play type. Mindaugas Kuzminskas, who they recently waived, was also a spot-up shooter (35.9 percent frequency) for the Knicks.
This year, Thomas has dropped his spot-up frequency rate (43.6 percent) while Doug McDermott (30.3 percent) and Courtney Lee (22.7 percent) have become their only options for this play type.
McDermott and Lee are shooting a combined 43.7 percent from beyond the arc on catch-and-shoot attempts, which would be near the best among those with as many opportunities. But neither player has eclipsed an average of three attempts per game. For comparison, Philadelphia’s Robert Covington averages 7.2 attempts per game.
If the team is able to find these plays for their more often, the Knicks have the talent to connect on the attempts. They just need to move the ball better and trust their teammates.
DunkWire, Courtney Lee, Doug McDermott, Kristaps Porzingis, Kyle O'Quinn, Lance Thomas, Tim Hardaway Jr, New York Knicks