A Fitting Return

ESPN New York’s Jared Zwerling reported on Saturday afternoon that soon-to-be free agent Nate Robinson would welcome a return back to the New York Knicks. “Nate’s first thought would be to remain with the Bulls, but if the Knicks’ opportunity presented itself, I am sure he would appreciate an opportunity to play in New York again,” said Robinson’s agent Aaron Goodwin in the piece.

For fans who only know of Robinson from his days as a Knick, the name conjures rambunctiousness, nonconformity and an overwhelming amount of  bad shots. However, since his tenure with the Knicks – which ended midway through the 2010 season – “Nate the Great” has matured into a much more calm and effective scoring threat.

(For detail into his journey from a shot-crazy Knickerbocker to a formidable point guard in Chicago you can read my profile on Robinson here.)

Although Robinson was still more inconsistent than many would have liked this season, I believe he can be of plenty use if he signs with the Knicks this summer. Coming from the guy who slaughtered J.R. Smith for his erratic play, it sounds odd. I know. But, there does lie a position on the team in which Nate Robinson can be not only an efficient scorer but one of the best in the league to do it off the bench.

This season, Robinson was signed to score off the bench for the Chicago Bulls with star point guard Derrick Rose sitting out until the Earth blows itself up. In the 2086 minutes Robinson played this season, (a career-high) he spent 306 of those on the floor alongside Bulls’ replacement starter at the one Kirk Hinrich. Hinrich is a ten-year veteran of the league and a solid general of an offense. Now let’s look at Robinson’s efficiency with Hinrich on and off the floor:

Stat Hinrich on court Hinrich off court
FG% 45.8 42.8
eFG% 54.7 50
TS% 56.6 52.9
TOV% 9.3 10.3
USG% 33.3 25.1

As you can see, Robinson becomes a deadly scorer with a stable point guard in play. There is a bit of distortion considering Robinson only played on the court with Hinrich for 306 minutes, but the results are glaring. Only two players since the birth of the NBA have even tallied the same minutes, USG% and eFG% marks over a season as Robinson did in his time with Hinrich: Michael Jordan and LeBron James. Again, I think small-sample size may have something to do with this.

Robinson transitions from a two-guard on offense to a point on defense when playing with Hinrich, thus maintaining his impressive scoring while also being less of a cancer on the defensive end. Playing off the ball on the scoring end means less turnovers from Robinson as you can see above, something the Knicks modeled themselves after this season. Also note that the Bulls don’t have another point guard like Kirk Hinrich, while the Knicks will potentially have two next year.

Jason Kidd is mulling retirement, with the other option being playing through the final two years of his contract. Meanwhile, Pablo Prigioni is also debating whether or not to stay in New York or go back to Argentina. Yes, these are two “what-ifs?” that we are basing whether or not Nate Robinson is of value to the Knicks. I also failed to mention the money factor, as the Knicks can only realistically offer the mini-MLE to Robinson in order to have a shot at signing him.

It is safe to assume one of the aforementioned names will be sporting the orange and blue next season, and in this case I am all for the return of Nate Robinson. His spark off the bench would be of good use when playing alongside a capable floor leader, and I have no doubts that Knick fans will welcome him with open arms. Worst-case scenario, he stinks but he’s super fun to watch. Another Dunk Contest please?

Some Thoughts on J.R. Smith

It’s normally not an accustomed practice for one to compare a situation from real life to a video game, but I believe it’s suitable when trying to convey my feelings about J.R. Smith.  As the artificially intelligent super-computer antagonist (see below) in the final scene of the game ‘Portal 2’ said to the protagonist:

This is a very smart computer. It does not fancy J.R. Smith.
This is a very smart computer. It does not fancy J.R. Smith.

“The best solution to a problem is usually the easiest one. And I’ll be honest – killing you – is hard.”

To be clear, I have no desire to off J.R. Smith. I would be quite pleased, however, if he chose to take his talents elsewhere. As an individual, it’s easy to see why people fall for J.R.’s charms,  2 A.M. bike rides with fans, zipping about New York City and, of course, hilariously candid use of social media. His game however, is a mind-boggling, irritating, vast sea of inconsistency. But Smith has always played like this, so we shouldn’t have expected anything different, right?

After joining the team  midway through last season, Smith, in large part due to the bond he shared with interim head coach Mike Woodson, was allowed to keep chucking during many a slump. He received ample encouragement from his coach that he was far too talented to be known as simply a streaky shooter. To some degree, it worked. Even in his darkest offensive hours, Smith was battling hard on the boards and putting forth a plus effort on defense. After resigning for a meager contract plus a player option, many fans hoped he’d improve and gain consistency in 2012-13 .

After a splendid start and equally un-splendid slump for 40-odd games, down the stretch, Smith finally took it upon himself to get to the rack as frequently as possible. In January, just under 25% of Smith’s field goal attempts were right near the rim, and he shot 36% from the field while getting to the free throw line merely 3.4 times a night. In comparison, in March, Smith sported a 44% shooting percentage and 6 trips to the stripe per game, with 33% of his field goal attempts coming close to the basket. In a related story, the Knicks’ best stretches occurred when Smith was at his peak and their worst when J.R. was ‘Bad J.R.”

Alas, all this vanished when the clock struck Playoffs, Not to put too fine a point on it, but he was downright dreadful.  Smith had more field goal attempts than points, 163 to 157 and shot just 33% from the field and his REB% dipped from a regular-season mark of 9.3% to 8.9%. Oh, and (depending how much credence you put into celebrity Instagram accounts as a valid news source), Smith apparently thought the key to escaping this spate of dreadful play could either be found at the bottom of a bottle of booze, brought directly to his table at one of the city’s/Nap Town’s finer night clubs or was located somewhere in Jason Terry’s bridgework.

Smith’s 27-years old and entering his 10th professional season. There’s little precedent that a player–even one as admittedly talented as J.R. is–is going to put it all together, such that one can say with confidence, “J.R. is going to check in tonight and do this, and this, and this for us.” Just the fact that this team is reliant on such a random entity troubles me greatly. That said, the easy and best solution is not cross digits and hope he finally fulfills his potential. I believe trying to mold J.R. Smith’s game at this point is an utter lost cause. He is what he is…Isn’t that right, artificially intelligent super-computer antagonist?

“I had a pretty good life. And then you showed up. You dangerous, mute, lunatic. So you know what? Just go. It’s been fun, don’t come back.”

Good point, AI. J.R. Smith is certainly far from mute, but can he be described as dangerous and/or a lunatic? Literally, no. Of course he isn’t. But he is a threat to whatever aspirations this team may have, championship-wise. J.R.’s hard-wired to take bad shots and he’s got a coach that only encourages some of his worst instincts. Why keep him around when it only enables Woodson to ride him on nights when he shot 7-of-22 and played extremely poor defense.

Now to the latter portion of that sentence. As much as I’d like to see J.R. ply his trade elsewhere, odds are, the Knicks will bring him back on some variation of a 4 yr/5+million dollar deal, unless Phoenix or Atlanta thrusts bucketfuls of cash J.R.’s way.  I’ll admit it’s been fun, watching Smith bury 40-footers at the buzzer and dazzle us all with remarkable flushes at the rim. At the end of the day, I like winning more than I get a bang out of the occasional ESPN-y highlight or x-rated Tweet. There a good amount of minimum or mini mid-level players I’d take over him that are available in free agency, such as:

  • Chase Budinger
  • Dorrell Wright
  • Randy Foye
  • Martell Webster

Do they have J.R.’s talent/’potential?” No, but they are far more consistent performers. And that’s what the Knicks needed versus Indiana. Right, my sentient mechanical friend?

“Goodbye my only friend. Oh, did you think I meant you? That would be funny, if it weren’t so sad.”

Indeed. Goodbye, my favorite Knickerbocker of 2013. What? Not you J.R.! I was talking to Pablo. Going to miss you Prigs.

Escaping a Brutal Reality

It was a dazzling scene. Roars of applause rained down in Madison Square Garden, the joyous New York Knicks fans collectively rejoicing a historic victory. The cheers were so ear-deafening, they shook the Earth below with such ferocity I felt the ground tremble before my feet, despite my being a good 10 miles away, watching the spectacle at home on my television.

“And the Knicks have done it! They move on to the Eastern Conference Finals after falling behind 3-1 to the Indiana Pacers with three convincing blowouts.”

Mike Breen’s ecstatic voice captured this moment perfectly, you could hear the electricity in his enthused voice.

“Jeff, what did the Knicks do to swing what looked like a lost series in their direction?”

“Well Mike, they went back to what won them fifty games this season. They played at a slow pace and didn’t give away the ball on offense. Anthony was making his open catch-and-shoot looks, while Felton ran unstoppable pick-and-rolls with Tyson Chandler.”

“Speaking of Tyson Chandler, he was a major factor in New York’s comeback.”

“Yes, Chandler returned to his Defensive Player of the Year form, providing an impenetrable inside presence and completely shutting down Roy Hibbert. His defense was so strong the Knicks found no need to double onto the Pacers bigs, even while playing their dominant small ball lineup.”

“You mention their small ball lineup, they ran it to perfection all season long. However Mike Woodson went big in Game 4 of this series to try and counteract their rebounding woes, but it did not work out as they planned. Once he went back to the original starting five in Game 5, what changed for the Knicks?”

“Mike, the greatest of coaches know that the goal is not to adjust to your opponent’s strategy, but to make your opponent adjust. The Pacers have two prototypical bigs up front, and when the Knicks started Kenyon Martin over Pablo Prigioni in Game 4 they played right into Indiana’s hands. New York forced Frank Vogel to have to adjust to the Knicks terrific spacing and ball movement on offense, but he could not find an answer. Adding another big body onto the court won’t solve your rebounding problem, it’s about a collective effort and remembering to box out on every possession. The Knicks did that for three games in a row, and here they are.”

“You brought up Pablo Prigioni. Despite being one of the most reliable players on this team throughout the postseason, he found very little time on the court during this series. How much of an impact did he bring once coach Woodson decided to play him for significant minutes?”

“Well he along with Iman Shumpert have arguably been two of the Knicks most important piece in these Playoffs, yet did not play enough minutes to make a stronger positive impact on the games in the first ten contests of the Knicks’ Playoff run. In these past three wins, Woodson played each for thirty minutes a night. Doing so, he reduced the playing time of the inefficient Jason Kidd and J.R. Smith dramatically, which proved to be a great move. Shumpert was able to discomfort the rising Paul George, while Prigioni remianed his stingy self, forcing turnovers and making the open three. Kidd and Smith have been struggling throughout these Playoffs, unable to get rolling on the offensive end and not doing much better on defense. Woodson also took minutes away from the rusty Amar’e Stoudemire and gave his floor time to rookie Chris Copeland, who provided floor spacing with his knock-down three point shooting.”

“Copeland was certainly a huge help for the Knicks coming off the bench. How much of this do you feel falls on the Indiana Pacers?”

“Well simply put, Indiana is out-matched on paper. Talent wise, the Knicks are better than the Indiana Pacers. However, for the first four games of the series, it was the Pacers who played as a team while the Knicks were scrambling, running isolations to no end and not putting up any effort on the boards. The Knicks played like a team during the regular season, one bent on smart passing and a methodical, slow approach. It was only in Game 5 and beyond when they went back to their winning ways, and once they did the Pacers stood no chance. Their offense has been poor all season long, and once the Knicks figured out their league-best defense – torching the sagging Hibbert on pick-and-rolls, not attacking him head on when driving into the paint and getting Melo lots of space to work one-on-one against defenders that truly had no shot – they were able to run Indiana out of the gym in three straight affairs.”

“And what a three games it was. This has been Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, thank you for watching. We’ll see you on Monday for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Fina- David!”

Huh?

“David, come on!”

I closed my eyes firmly for a couple of seconds, opened them again, and suddenly I was facing my ceiling. Wait, what? I was laying down on my bed. How? Wasn’t I just standing a foot away from my TV? I sat up, dripping in sweat.

“David you’re going to be late to school. Oh God, did you have a nightmare?”

It was Mom leaning through my open door. I looked at her, then down at my soaking self, then back at her. Once it finally clicked, I jumped out of my bed and quickly slammed my computer out of sleep mode.

“E..S..P..N..dot…com.”

I stared deeply into my screen. There’s no way. It couldn’t be. It had to have happened.

“Pacers Take Game 4, Lead Series 3-1”

Shit.

The Knicks’ Backcourt Conundrum

The Knicks have evened up their series against the Indiana Pacers 1-1 as the scene shifts to Indy for Games 3 and 4. While New York rang up a convincing blowout victory in Game 2, the distribution of minutes is growing into a legitimate concern. For reasons unknown, Mike Woodson hasn’t utilized Iman Shumpert and Pablo Prigioni for extended minute, despite the fact that they’re playing some  of the best basketball on the entire squad.

Browsing through the on/off ratings in this postseason I found that of players that have played at least 150 minutes thus far, Prigioni and Shumpert have had two of the leading three greatest positive impact by a Knick on the team’s performance. With Prigs on the floor, the Knickerbockers own a NetRTG of +24 and with Shump a +12.4. Separating the two is Tyson Chandler with a +14 impact.

What is the cause of this uptick in productivity? For one, Prigioni and Shumpert are the two best perimeter defenders on the team. Iman’s defense has been the meat and potatoes of his basketball since the second he draped a Knicks jersey onto his ridiculously athletic 6’5″, 212-pound frame. Although he struggles at times when chasing players off the ball and on the offensive end, his one-on-one defense as a second-year player coming back from a brutal ACL tear has been stupendous. To add on to his astounding play in isolation, his hands have never been more alert and active, reaching into passing lanes and throwing a serious wrench into the opposing team’s offensive sets.  Shump’s been especially adept in this Pacers series at coming over from the weak side to strip one of Indy’s bigs at the foul line.

Prigioni doesn’t have Shump’s athleticism, but his game is built on craftiness and peskiness,and while Prigs won’t out-run many guards in the league, he has the stamina to pressure them from one end of the court to the other; his feisty pursuit of the basketball just as much of hindrance as Shump’s speed to the ball.

And it’s not all defense we’re seeing from the ‘Bockers’ dynamic duo. To our surprise, they have been two of the most reliable long-distance marksmen on the team. Pablo Prigioni has made 47.6% of his threes in the Playoffs and Iman Shumpert 46.2%. Prigioni has long been known to be a terrific distributor, but during the season he had turnover troubles, giving the ball away in 27.1% of his possessions. In the postseason he’s made the easier and smarter pass, and  his TOV% has dropped to just 12.9%.

Want more? Iman has made it increasingly difficult for opposing defenses to match up with the Knicks’ small ball scheme with calmer and more controlled drives to the basket. With Carmelo Anthony feasting on the slower fours guarding him, opponents have been trying to “hide” said burly interior player on Shumpert while having a quicker small forward check Anthony. With Shumpert finishing deftly at the rim and locating cutting bigs when the defense rotates, opponents have to pick their poison. Notice Shump’s shooting percentage right at the basket during the regular season compared to during the Playoffs.

 

Regular season

hDEbcO3

 

Playoffs!

T8BAuDs

 

 

So, the question remains: Why aren’t Shump and Prigs getting more minutes? Iman Shumpert has averaged 29 minutes per game in the postseason and Prigioni just 22.1 minutes a night; fourth and seventh in MPG despite being arguably the fourth and fifth most important Knickerbockers in this playoff run. One counter-argument could be that there aren’t any players ahead of them whose minutes could justifiably be cut, but I’d retort…

J.R. Smith and Jason Kidd have played 31.9 and 24.9 minutes a night during the postseason, despite the fact that they’ve ranged from adequate to atrocious. Smith, the Knicks’ second leading scorer this year, has a shooting percentage line of 34-30-68. 34% from the field, 30% from downtown and 68% from the charity stripe. The only Knick to fare worse ? Jason Kidd, who has made just 3 of his 21 field goal attempts.

The Knicks have an infuriating habit out of deviating from what’s worked in this postseason, and it cost them a sweep in the opening round and home-court advantage in the second round. If they hope to reach the Eastern Conference finals, Mike Woodson has to cede floor time to actual postseason contributors instead of sticking with “his guys”/waiting for a return to form from J.R. and Kidd that may never arrive. If not, this postseason may be over much sooner than any of us would like.

Are big lineups necessary to oust Indiana?

From an opening night beatdown of the Miami Heat to their narrow victory over Boston in Game 6 of the first round, the New York Knicks have won many a game playing primarily with small lineups. These lineups often feature Carmelo Anthony — long believed to be a prototypical small forward — at the four spot. This not only helps space the floor for a thriving three-heavy offense; it also gives Anthony more room than he’s ever had to operate in isolation, seeing as how he’s sharing the floor with a single big man.

On the flip side, having Anthony guard opposing power forwards — even if they’re bigger and stronger — has yet to curtail New York’s success with these lineups.

However, this may change against the Indiana Pacers.

The Pacers pride themselves on their physicality. The undeniable focal point of this persona is power forward David West, a 240-pound beast on the low block who overwhelms most “natural” fours. Anthony cannot be considered as such, and has struggled to contain the fierce West in their meetings this season:

Screen Shot 2013-05-04 at 6.56.41 PM

The one game in which West struggled to get going? Anthony was inactive and the Knicks went with a large frontcourt of Tyson Chandler and Marcus Camby. Anthony’s ability to defend West in spurts notwithstanding, he’ll likely be battered and bruised within a few games. West plays a relentless brand of basketball — never shying away from his defender, and always willing to deliver a hard foul when needed. It’s difficult to imagine this not bearing a huge impact on Anthony’s game, whether by forcing him to decline attacking the basket in lieu of settling for outside jumpers, or — worse still — by increasing his likelihood of being hurt.

Which brings us to that left shoulder, which Anthony appeared to have yanked awkwardly during Game 5 of the Celtics series, and which clearly gave him trouble when a Game 6 KG screen appeared to pop it temporarily out of place. Melo trying to remedy his shoulder while playing a series against the Indiana Pacers — where he may very well have to check West — is a pretty horrifying prospect.

Which invites the question, should the Knicks go big against the Pacers? Some points to consider, for starters:

  • The Knicks shouldn’t run out of big men if they decide to go big. Kenyon Martin starting would mean Marcus Camby would have to play a legitimate role, but only for a limited amount of games. Amar’e Stoudemire could be active for Game 3, and there’s always the option of bringing in Chris Copeland back from his dungeon cellar to play the four or five off the bench.
  • Although Anthony’s offense is better and more efficient when he’s at the four, it does not take a significant hit when he moves to the three. Anthony’s played that position for the majority of his NBA career, and his eFG% drops by only 1.6% when he’s played the small forward this season.
  • Moving Melo down a slot knocks either Pablo Prigioni or Iman Shumpert out of the starting five. Prigioni would likely be the player being demoted to the pine, which should help alleviate Jason Kidd of  extensive ball-handling duties for the second unit. This slides Kidd over to the shooting guard spot, where he’s excelled this season, thus making for much stronger bench play from the Knicks.

These are just a few factors to consider. There are bountiful counter-arguments, of course, not the least of which is that fact that the team’s two wins over the Pacers came with Melo at the four. 

There’s also the fact that Carmelo played exactly zero minutes alongside both Martin and Tyson Chandler during the regular season, and this three-man lineup played just a single minute of Playoffs basketball together. Starting the three together would mean having to conjure chemistry from a lineup that hasn’t logged any real minutes… during a second-round Playoffs series. This is far from ideal.

Despite a fifty-win season and the conquering of an old rival, the Knicks still have many questions to answer. First and foremost: how to approach this sure-to-be troublesome second-round battle against the Indiana Pacers. New York can’t afford to pursue the kind of deficient strategies they resorted to in round 1 if they hope to reach the Eastern Conference Finals.

A new job for Knick fans: Cheer on Atlanta

As New York looks to close out the Boston Celtics in Game 5 Wednesday night, Indiana and Atlanta have drawn even in their best of seven series. With the respective winners set to face off in the second round, there is plenty of incentive for Knick fans to be rooting their hearts out for the Hawks.

While Knicks swept their season series with the Hawks 3-0 (one being the last game of the year, and a blatant tank job by Atlanta), they needed a late-season win to split with Indiana, 2-2.

In the interest of diving deeper into how the Bockers fared against each squad, I charted New York’s offensive and defensive efficiency, as well as their net ratings against both teams, comparing them to the Knicks’ season averages per NBA Stats:

Screen Shot 2013-04-30 at 12.07.05 PM

Right off the bat, the difference in play is apparent. The stellar play that drove New York to the East’s second seed — and their third ranked offensive efficiency — was halted and suffocated by the Pacers’ league best defense. This is predominantly due to Indiana’s dedication to preventing the long ball, the Knicks’ primary source of offense. When adjusted for pace, the Pacers allowed the second fewest three-point attempts per-48 minutes in the NBA. In games against the Pacers, the Knicks attempted 26 threes per contest, a lower number compared to games played against two-thirds of the association.

Sure, New York’s defense is ahead of their season mark against Indy, but the Pacers run the 19th worst offense in the NBA. Not to discredit the Knicks defense, but Indiana’s not going to beat any team trying to play a barn-burner of a contest. Although the Knicks match up very well against Indiana defensively — Tyson Chandler can more than hold his own against Roy Hibbert, while Iman Shumpert’s savvy perimeter defense could help render All-Star Paul George’s game merely pedestrian — one matchup above all else scares me to death.

That would be Carmelo Anthony checking Indiana’s bulldozer power forward, David West. West’s patented physicality has the potential to drain Melo, why with his overwhelming power down low and consistent doling of punishment to the opposition. That could mean fatigue, hesitance, or — worse yet — bangs and bruises to the Knicks’ best player.

And don’t forget how the Knicks as a whole have succumbed more than once to their own frustration when playing opposite a very physical team, which lead to many an unforced error and infuriating technical fouls.

Meanwhile against the Hawks — a far less physical team — the Knicks have thrived on the offensive end. Carmelo Anthony in particular has beasted, as you can see here:

Screen Shot 2013-04-30 at 12.07.56 PM

Atlanta has been a helpless victim to New York’s small ball approach, unable to match up or adapt to the point of competing. If they go small with their Horford-Smith frontcourt, Chandler should eradicate Horford’s offense, while Anthony should have a field day attacking Smith — a step too slow to keep up — on the offensive end. Hawks head coach Larry Drew’s stubbornness in sticking with “J-Smoove” on Melo led Anthony to a game-winning layup in one meeting and a forty point game in another against Atlanta. If the Hawks go big, say with Petro-Horford-Smith in their frontcourt, the Knicks should look to rain threes on a much slower unit who can’t rotate quick enough to open shooters.

Another key is pace. The Knicks have won games running down the shot clock and not forcing in transition, fancying a slower pace all season long. While Indiana shares a similar devotion to slogging basketball, the Hawks lean towards the middle of the pack in the league. Against Indy the Knicks would ball with the tempo they’re most comfortable with, but against the Hawks, New York might be able to better dictate how they want to play and use this control to their advantage.

With the Knicks one win away from advancing, the optimistic fan will tell you that neither Atlanta nor Indiana stands a chance. Still, one match up in particular would make for a much smoother road to the Conference Finals.

Knicks pioneering the NBA’s three-point renaissance

In today’s NBA, basketball is played noticeably differently then how it was decades ago — even ten years ago. When discussing the changes in our beloved game, many factors come into play, not the least of which is the advanced statistics phenomenon.

Recently, thanks to some very brilliant minds, teams and fans alike have begun to dive headlong into APBRmetrics (acronym for Association for Professional Basketball Research Metrics), only to discover that it’s less of a pool than an enormous ocean. To go more in-depth here would be deviating from my point, but one favorite of the advanced statistics community is efficiency, and this has caused a reformation in the NBA among the teams’ use of the three-point shot.

The Knicks in particular have taken it to an entirely new threshold this season.

When siphoning through the statistics, the aforementioned three-point escalation becomes obvious. The league average for total three-point attempts in this 2013 season was 1636. Compare this to previous marks:

  • 2003: 1204
  • 1993: 734
  • 1983: 185

These are severely sharp rises, even when you consider rule changes such as the defensive three seconds call and the allowance of zone defense. With teams becoming more three-point dependent, the question becomes, “to three, or not to three?”

Our question: Are teams that base their offense around the three-pointer likely to win more? This is a pivotal question, particularly when you consider that our 2012-2013 New York Knicks have attempted more treys this season than any one team in league history.

Efficiency-wise, the three-point look from the corner is the second-most efficient field goal attempt in the game, the third being a three outside of the corner. To explore if there would be a correlation between three-point attempts and winning, I charted out the winning percentage and the percentage of field goal attempts that were threes adjusted for pace of each team in the league, per NBA Stats:


Click here for the full image.

Although it’s a bit subtle, you can see the common decline between winning percentage and three-pointers attempted in an offense. Notice, aside from the Memphis Grizzlies and Chicago Bulls (two outliers, both winning with great defense and mediocre offense), the top teams are in the mid-to-high 20’s in three-pointers attempted percentage. Meanwhile, on the bottom end, nearly every team is in the low 20’s. This goes deeper than threes attempted, however. Indeed, a big part of running a successful three-heavy offense is the type and caliber of the three pointer attempted. Take Milwaukee, for example, where Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis are jacking up any long bomb that looks appealing.

The Knicks, on the other hand, finished the regular season fifth in the league in 3PT% — clearly they’ve done plenty right. This is primarily because the Knicks’ offensive system is designed to get wide open threes, and pivots on great spacing, smart passes and individual shooting ability. With this last factor, you’ll notice that not only does New York utilize a hefty amount of first-rate shooters; a majority of them have shot the deep ball better this year than they have throughout their careers:

Let’s not forget the two Knick rookies either:

  • Pablo Prigioni: 39.6%
  • Chris Copeland: 42.1%

This Knicks roster has an arsenal of — if not deadly — extremely capable shooters. With the Knicks running a huge chunk of their offense through the three-point shot, it’s hard to imagine most shooters’ percentages not rising. As far as swinging the ball around well, no team does this better than New York. Additionally, the Knicks lead the league in lowest turnover percentage, which has become a staple of their season since opening night. This flawless team passing makes for a much more fluid offense, one that doesn’t easily concede the ball to the opponent.

As for great spacing, the Knicks employ one of the most effective offenses. Key to this has been one of the most lethal stretch four in the game, Carmelo Anthony. Anthony’s comprehensive scoring ability, in particular his knock-down shooting touch when spotting up, makes him the perfect fit for this type of offense — driven as it is by Anthony’s isolations and a plethora of pick-and-rolls.

Per Synergy Sports, the Knicks rank second in the league in spot-up attempts, which also accounts for the highest percentage of New York’s overall offense. The Knicks are shooting 38.1% from downtown (76% of their spot-up attempts were from three) on these shots, which makes for the third-best three-point percentage in the league. These open looks are provided by Carmelo Anthony’s remarkable scoring ability and the difficult to guard Raymond Felton-Tyson Chandler pick-and-rolls collapsing opposing defenses, leaving wide open shooters to let it fly.

Intent on drowning the opposition in a monsoon of threes, this offense is what’s carried the Knicks thus far. How far this crutch can carry them, with the Knicks now one win shy of moving on to the second round of the Playoffs for the first time since 2000, has yet to be seen.