Knicks Can’t Shoot, But They Can Score

According to Basketball-Reference.com, the New York Knicks’ offense is ranked 13th in the league. That’s a pretty healthy showing, especially for a team coming off a 17 win season with a fair amount of new players. However there is one oddity with this statistic: the Knicks can’t shoot. New York is 26th in effective field goal percentage (.461).

So how is New York scoring so well despite the fact that they can’t hit the broad side of a barn? They’re doing the non-barn-hitting parts of the offense pretty well. At the writing of this article, the Knicks stand 12th in free throws and 4th in both turnovers and offensive rebounding. Offensive rebounding stands to be a strength for this team for the foreseeable future. New York has 4 strong rebounders in their rotation: Kyle O’Quinn (4.7 oreb/36), Kristaps Porzingis (4.5), Lou Amundson (3.6), and Robin Lopez (3.2). Obviously the big surprise of this group is the Kurzeme Machine, as it was unclear before the season started if Porzingis’ slight frame would prohibit him from mixing it up in the paint. His long reach combined with a good motor has enabled his teammates to rack up Kobe assists.

The lack of turnovers are more difficult to analyze. The “I don’t need actual stats” reasoning would be the triangle offense has limited the number of iso plays which has led to a safer offense. However this hypothesis fails when you consider the team ran the triangle last year and still finished 22nd in terms of turnover percentage. So for the time being, let’s chalk this up to one of the mysteries of life — like what the Pyramids were built for. (My own theory is that they were civilizations’ first tough mudder course. Egyptian WOD: Climb up the pyramid and back down again. 1RFT.)

Free throws are one factor that may see a decrease. Right now, Derrick Williams is second on the team in total free throws made, and first in free throws per minute. Recently, Fisher has started to cut back on the forward’s playing time, which could hurt the team in this regard (but most likely help it in a lot of others). After Williams, comes Grant and ‘Taps on the list, and the latter pair’s free throws per minute combined don’t add up to Williams’. So New York’s charitable endeavors may come to an end.

However it’s entirely possible that New York offsets the drop in free throws by actually sinking some shots from the field. Three players that are banging away at iron are Melo, RoLo, and Porzingo. Lopez’ inclusion among the blacksmiths is perplexing. His eFG is a career low .460, far below his normal rate of .530. In 7 of 8 seasons, he’s been above .500. So most likely there’ll be an improvement from the bedheaded center.

Meanwhile Melo’s .459 is off from his career rate of .482. Coming off from surgery, the knee jerk (Wilbonian) theory is that Anthony has lost his lift. If this is true, then the stats aren’t showing it where expected. Carmelo has historically gotten his shot blocked 7.6% of the time and this year is down to 5.4%. There could be a few reasons #StayMe7o isn’t shooting up to par. However let’s give him some time before we assume it’s his inability to get up.

There is one other person that could help New York in this area. Aaron Afflalo has a .516 career eFG, but only once in the past 3 seasons has he been better than .500. So if Afflalo still has some juice left in the tank, he could help New York. If not he’s just part of the problem. It’ll be interesting to see where the Knicks will be a month or two from now.

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Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of KnickerBlogger.net. His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).

63 thoughts to “Knicks Can’t Shoot, But They Can Score”

  1. No real mystery on the turnovers. Calderon is a historically safe player with the ball in his hands with a nearly 4-1 Ast/To ratio in his career (4562/1148).

    Grant has been good with the ball equally in college and pros (so far).

    None of he players that have the ball in their hands a lot have Ewing hands, either. Porzingis has ball skills way beyond the average 7 footer, Melo doesn’t give it a way a lot and most of the others play within themselves. That… and running a structured offense mostly limits the TO’s

  2. It think the wonky numbers have a simple explanation: not enough games played yet.

    Yes, of course, every silver cloud has a grey lining

  3. Knicks are also one of the best foul shooting teams in the league. The only notorious brick layer is Sweet Lou Armerson (as Clyde calls him for some reason).

  4. as Clyde calls him for some reason

    I think Cleanthony Early gets to wear street clothes because Clyde keeps calling him Anthony or Clee. We have to sign a lot of Smiths on this team….oh, wait, we did that last year and it didn’t work out quite that well.

  5. There are a bunch of guys on the team who are really underperforming in terms of eFG%, and not many guys who are overperforming. Melo, Lopez, Afflalo and Williams are all way below their career norms. So I think we will see some regression to the mean in terms of team eFG%.

    Knicks are now 13th in offensive rating, 14th in defensive rating, which is pretty interesting.

  6. Those are interesting numbers. They are better than at least half the team in the league. Last year that should have gotten them into the playoffs. This year, there are 20 teams with better records than them and 11 of them are in the in Eastern conference. The standards for getting into the playoffs seem to have gone up this year., at least in the East

  7. @7

    They may be tied for 19th, but are literally a fingernail away from being 12th.

    They have a budding superstar who is 20 and 2 young guards that look as if they have a real future. They haven’t dumped a draft choice and there is sanity in the front office.

    It is actually fun to be a Knick fan again!

  8. I agree with you on all that, but I still think they could have to do better than .500 ball to make the playoffs. Even if they don’t, it is definitely fun again, which is great.

  9. There is definitely room for improvement and winning more games. Melo started out slow. So did Calderon. Affalo just got back into the line up. And we’re playing Grant, Gallo and Zinger (2 rookies and 1 second year player) significant minutes. Of course those 3…one or all of them could hit a wall or regress but they could also improve. And Affalo getting his legs under him, Melo heating up and Calderon too, its reasonable to think this 500 team we see now….this is the floor not the ceiling.

  10. I know that I’m overly optimistic, but the Knicks have had a BRUTAL schedule to start the season. They have played 11 games and 9 of those games were against 2015 playoff teams. It has to get easier but after the Hornets they play 4 tough road games. OKC and HOU are very tough road games and the MIA and ORL won’t be cakewalks either. I’ll be impressed if they win 2 out of the next 5.

  11. RoLo could also be shooting worse due to an increase in hook shots as a result of the triangle. That may not change. Its the Cole Aldrich problem all over again.

  12. Knicks are 7th in 3 point attempt rate allowed, 4th in 3P% against and 10th in FG% allowed. Unfortunately we’re top of the league in total free throw attempts against though I don’t have the numbers for that. Either way the defense is way ahead of where I expected with room for improvement in our foul rate, which may not come until we can replace Calderon as the starting PG and prevent penetration.

    Fisher gets a lot of shit, but you have to give him credit for drastically improving the fundamentals of this defense and making a massive improvement in the number of threes we’re allowing and the efficacy of those shots.

  13. RoLo could also be shooting worse due to an increase in hook shots as a result of the triangle. That may not change. Its the Cole Aldrich problem all over again.

    His biggest reason for the drop in efficiency is he’s having to create far more shots this season than last due to playing with our worst creating guards for the majority of this season in Calderon and Vujacic as opposed to Damian Lillard.

  14. His biggest reason for the drop in efficiency is he’s having to create far more shots this season

    That and the fact that he’s actually looking to shoot. The Blazers didn’t need him to score last season.

  15. RoLo could also be shooting worse due to an increase in hook shots as a result of the triangle.

    Solution: stop taking the hook shots.

    Lopez is doing a great job passing and screening, but is taking some really ill-advised shots. The center doesn’t necessarily have to shoot a lot in the triangle– almost of the centers Jax had in Chicago were not strong offensive players. I think they need to tell RoLo to bag the hook shot. It ain’t working.

  16. I know that I’m overly optimistic, but the Knicks have had a BRUTAL schedule to start the season. They have played 11 games and 9 of those games were against 2015 playoff teams.

    I don’t buy their schedule as brutal. The Wizards and Pelicans have been awful this season so far. What does it matter that they made the playoffs last season?

    Out of 11 games, they’ve played three games against great teams (Cavs and Spurs), two games against good teams (Hawks and Raptors), one game against a mediocre team (Hornets), three against pretty bad teams (Bucks and Wizards) and two against horrible teams (Lakers and Pelicans). That sure sounds like a typical schedule.

  17. Out of 11 games, they’ve played three games against great teams (Cavs and Spurs), two games against good teams (Hawks and Raptors), one game against a mediocre team (Hornets), three against pretty bad teams (Bucks and Wizards) and two against horrible teams (Lakers and Pelicans). That sure sounds like a typical schedule.

    The wizards have had a tough schedule, i dont think they are bad.

  18. Lopez is doing a great job passing and screening, but is taking some really ill-advised shots. The center doesn’t necessarily have to shoot a lot in the triangle– almost of the centers Jax had in Chicago were not strong offensive players. I think they need to tell RoLo to bag the hook shot. It ain’t working.

    We really need KP and Grant to develop in to guys that can handle higher usage and that will go down. Right now KP is on decent usage, but his efficiency is shit. I’m really bullish on him at least being able to get to 54-56 TS% range in his career on 25+ USG% while being a plus defender.

    Grant’s ability to penetrate and get to the line is very promising. He’s just a decent mid-range jumper away from being a good offensive PG and he was a solid shooter off the dribble at Notre Dame. The fact he’s transitioning from a spread pick and roll offense where he controlled everything seems like it’s forcing him to adjust quite a bit where he now is expected to move the ball more in the Triangle. Quite often though he just breaks from the Triangle and starts doing something on his own and what’s nice is that Fisher is giving him the leash to figure it out because his penetration could be huge for our offense.

    “It’s just called ‘Welcome to the NBA,’” said coach Derek Fisher, an ex-point guard himself. “Sustaining success in this league requires you to embrace your weaknesses and the things you don’t do so well. So for Jerian, he’s going to have to embrace the opportunity teams are presenting him. If they’re going under screens, he needs to make teams pay for their adjustment.”

    I see this as Fisher trying to give Grant confidence to look for his own shot, which I think is encouraging and shows he’s giving both Grant and KP freedom to be aggressive in finding their games and eventually reduce lesser guys usage.

    Not sure how I ended up here from Lopez, but hopefully that made sense

  19. The wizards have had a tough schedule, i dont think they are bad.

    I tend to presume that they will improve, as well, but so far they have the third worst point differential in the East (and they just lost Bradley Beal to a shoulder injury, as well).

    And they’ve played the Knicks, Bucks, Celtics, Thunder, Spurs, Hawks and Magic twice. That also seems like a pretty normal schedule.

  20. And the Wizards are 4 and 4, so why are they considered terrible instead of just a mediocre team? I would say the Lakers and the Pelicans are the only games we played against teams that are demonstrably bad this year.

  21. Out of 11 games, they’ve played three games against great teams (Cavs and Spurs), two games against good teams (Hawks and Raptors), one game against a mediocre team (Hornets), three against pretty bad teams (Bucks and Wizards) and two against horrible teams (Lakers and Pelicans). That sure sounds like a typical schedule.

    It’s my opinion, but both the Bucks and the Wizards are good or very good teams.

  22. And the Wizards are 4 and 4, so why are they considered terrible instead of just a mediocre team?

    Not terrible, just pretty bad. As for why,

    so far they have the third worst point differential in the East

    But even if you wanted to upgrade them to “mediocre,” that does not lead to the Knicks having had a brutal schedule.

  23. Out of 11 games, they’ve played three games against great teams (Cavs and Spurs), two games against good teams (Hawks and Raptors), one game against a mediocre team (Hornets), three against pretty bad teams (Bucks and Wizards) and two against horrible teams (Lakers and Pelicans). That sure sounds like a typical schedule.

    Excellent point!

  24. I’m not so confident about Grant developing that jump shot. He’s 23, one year younger than Derrick Williams. I think he’s good enough in other areas that he’ll be a decent rotation-caliber point guard but I just don’t know about that jumper. He was awful from 3pt as a 22 year old senior and he’s 4 for 28 so far on shots from 16 feet or more. Woof.

  25. Solution: stop taking the hook shots.

    Lopez is doing a great job passing and screening, but is taking some really ill-advised shots. The center doesn’t necessarily have to shoot a lot in the triangle– almost of the centers Jax had in Chicago were not strong offensive players. I think they need to tell RoLo to bag the hook shot. It ain’t working.

    I thought the same thing, but then I looked and it turns out the hook shot hasn’t really been the problem (though he does seem to risk hurling his entire arm out of his shoulder and into the basket at times). He is 46% (11-24) on hook shots this year. Last year he was 51% on a lot of attempts. But he is 25% (8-32) on jump shots, which is as bad as it gets at a pretty high rate given his position and his minutes. But I think it’s partly bad luck, he’s not a great outside shooter, but over time he’s not bad. It’ll probably shape up a bit.

  26. With only eigtht games in I think point differential is pretty fluky. If you look at who the Wizards actually won and lost to, they beat the Magic, the Bucks, the 76er’s and Charlotte and they lost to Toronto, Boston, the Thunder and us. So they beat the teams they should have if you consider them mediocre (except for us?) and lost to teams that are pretty good (except for us?) . Our schedule was a little worse, since we played Cleveland twice, San Antonio and Toronto already. I think that’s harder than Washington’s schedule, but I agree that I wouldn’t call it brutal. However, the upcoming few games are tough, at least if you consider Houston a tough matchup. If not, the schedule is probably just more of the same.

  27. @26

    Like I said mid-range. He was a fine mid-range shooter in college. He looks pretty obviously hesitant to call his own number which I feel is impacting him, but again Fisher seems to be encouraging him to take that instead of forcing the issue at the rim and having it lead to some stupid jump pass.

  28. If not for Langston Galloway’s heroic .634 TS% would this team have won a single game this season?

    If not for the real isoball heroes on the Knicks, would Galloway have a .634 TS%?

  29. I thought the same thing, but then I looked and it turns out the hook shot hasn’t really been the problem (though he does seem to risk hurling his entire arm out of his shoulder and into the basket at times). He is 46% (11-24) on hook shots this year. Last year he was 51% on a lot of attempts. But he is 25% (8-32) on jump shots, which is as bad as it gets at a pretty high rate given his position and his minutes. But I think it’s partly bad luck, he’s not a great outside shooter, but over time he’s not bad. It’ll probably shape up a bit.

    Where’d you get the numbers for type of shot? it sounds like an awesome resource

  30. If not for the real isoball heroes on the Knicks, would Galloway have a .634 TS%?

    How did Galloway shoot last year with a team devoid of talent? No interaction effects in basketball though, right?

  31. If not for the real isoball heroes on the Knicks, would Galloway have a .634 TS%?

    If not for sixth-century Indian mathmeticians, would Galloway have a .634 TS%?

  32. Just realized Basketball-Reference updates the numbers for players we have draft rights to on our team page. Looks like Labeyrie and Hernangomez are playing damn well!*

    *sample size

  33. If not for sixth-century Indian mathmeticians, would Galloway have a .634 TS%?

    Finally we get passed the surface level analysis, bruhs

  34. The Knicks have built four low turnover, highly efficient offenses with Melo, who continues to have one of the lowest true turnover rates in the game.

    With two very good offensive rebounders alongside him, you have the foundation of an excellent offense, even if the Knicks don’t shoot the ball particularly well.

    But until Jerian Grant starts to get 30 minutes, the Knicks will be lacking the other key element to a great offense.

    Regardless, the shooting will no doubt improve, and health willing, this looks like a top 5-10 offense, which is how almost every offense has performed with Melo on the floor.

  35. Rebound rank by position among qualified players (2.5 deep, or 75 players typically)

    Galloway, PG, 4th
    Sasha, SG, 10th
    Melo, SF, 12th
    Porzingis, PF, 9th

    Lopez ranks 40th, but as been documented before, he positively impacts rebounding on both ends.

  36. Right now KP is on decent usage, but his efficiency is shit. I’m really bullish on him at least being able to get to 54-56 TS% range in his career on 25+ USG% while being a plus defender.

    Kevin Durant’s TS% his first year: .519
    Boogie’s: .484
    LeBron: .488
    Westbrook: .489

    Let’s not write off ‘Taps at .459 one month in.

  37. I’m not writing him off Mike. I’m trying to be cautiously optimistic. I think he can improve his numbers, but if he’s as good defensively as I think he will be and does while giving you above average league scoring efficiency on good usage and around top of the league offensive rebounding that’s an awesome player.

  38. I thought the same thing, but then I looked and it turns out the hook shot hasn’t really been the problem (though he does seem to risk hurling his entire arm out of his shoulder and into the basket at times). He is 46% (11-24) on hook shots this year. Last year he was 51% on a lot of attempts. But he is 25% (8-32) on jump shots, which is as bad as it gets at a pretty high rate given his position and his minutes. But I think it’s partly bad luck, he’s not a great outside shooter, but over time he’s not bad. It’ll probably shape up a bit.

    Thanks for looking up the numbers, but the Wilbonian theory of RoLo taking too many hook shots stands, because we can see that with our own eyes and stats can say anything.

  39. To clarify I haven’t actually been watching too many games. I just hazard a guess at what RoLo was doing differently. I was trying to get at the deeper issue that the differences between numbers this year and other years may actually be due to differences in how people are playing in the triangle or as a member of a new team. The same way that Cole Aldrich was thrown into the midst of the triangle and started taking a number of horrendous hook shots instead of just finishing at the rim. I’d gladly be proven wrong about such a thing and hope his jump shooting regresses to career numbers.

  40. On bkref it shows Brook taking only .322 of his shots within 3 feet, and .448 from 3-10. Career wise he’s been .507 and .302 respectively. Also note that means he’s taking more from 10+.

    Actually right now he’s missing 4 of every 5 shots from 10-16 feet. But I’m sure the team’s coaching/scouting department knows this & are working on fixing it.

  41. @43 – That’s what I see. The other night he couldn’t find someone to take the ball from him, turned around and took an ugly little jumper which he really didn’t want to take. It’s not like he’s been looking for his shot. His little hook has been deadly from 3-5 ft out.

  42. With Rolo he’s both taking and missing more shots away from the basket. At the least, he should start making more of them, because he’s been a decent shooter for a big man most of his career. But it would be nice if he’d replace one jumper per game with a shot at the rim.

  43. Yeah there are a lot of stats that feel like they will regress both in good and bad ways. Optimistically a few things stand out when you parse the data available on the NBA.com sportvu site–

    The offense creates LOTS of wide open shots.

    Melo eFG on wide open shots (representing 15% of his shots this year)
    2015-16 – 42.9
    2014-15 – 67.4
    2013-14 – 65.2

    Calderon eFG on wide open shots (representing 18% of his shots this year)
    2015-16 – 42.3
    2013-14 (last healthy season) – 63.7

    Overall our team is average is creating wide open shots (15th in the league) but 29th in the league in hitting them.

  44. The combined record of Knicks opponents not named Pelicans or Lakers is 58-33. They’ve played a grand total of 2 games against teams with losing records, but 5 against teams that are on pace to win 52 games or more (including 3 against teams that are on pace to win 65 games). That’s a “typical schedule?” Then what, in your mind is a difficult schedule?

  45. The combined record of Knicks opponents not named Pelicans or Lakers is 58-33. They’ve played a grand total of 2 games against teams with losing records, but 5 against teams that are on pace to win 52 games or more (including 3 against teams that are on pace to win 65 games). That’s a “typical schedule?” Then what, in your mind is a difficult schedule?

    I don’t get it.

    You are taking out both weakest teams of the equation but keeping the strongest?

    Wouldn’t it be more reasonable taking out the games against the Cavs and Spurs for example?

    Then the record is 36-27

    Still a difficult schedule but hardly impressive.

    Our SOS is .520 BTW.

    I agree with Brian. That’s average.

  46. It’s not even a knock on the Knicks. They just haven’t played a brutal schedule. They’re had a slightly more difficult than average schedule.

  47. I think we can say both that the Knicks early schedule has been a bit easier than it looked because the Pelicans are MUCH worse than anticipated, and both the Bucks and Wizards probably aren’t as good as expected (and we’re 3-1 against those teams), but has still been pretty difficult.

    The one thing that has definitely been pretty nice is we really have had a relatively light travel load so far. All of our road games have been Eastern Conference and none more than a couple hour flight. Only the Toronto-Charlotte B2B was really painful at all, and we lost the second half of that.

  48. http://www.basketball-reference.com/teams/NYK/2016.html?lid=standings_team

    According to Bkref – Knicks are 16th in SRS (Strength of Schedule).

    Simple Rating System; a rating that takes into account average point differential and strength of schedule. The rating is denominated in points above/below average, where zero is average.

    Mike,

    I think you’re misunderstanding SRS. It’s not strength of schedule. It’s a simple rating system that takes into account strength of schedule. It also factors in your own point differential as well against that schedule. You might think of it as a lightly adjusted point differential. For example, Golden State is 1st in SRS at the moment although their schedule has been very easy, because they’re winning every game by like 45 points.

  49. The Knicks are 11th in SOS, at the aforementioned .520. Indiana is #1 at .570 and Dallas is 30th at an utterly insane .411! No wonder Dallas is 7-4!

  50. According to Jeff Sagarin’s rating system, the Knicks have played the 9th toughest schedule. Only 3 teams have played more than the Knicks’ 5 games against top 10 teams.

  51. ooh the stats handwringing in this thread to suggest future success is hilarious, I am seriously loving it

  52. These rating have my head spinning. It’s really simple, the Knicks haven’t played the Nets or the 76’ers (the worst in the East who we get to play 4 times each) but they’ve played the Pelicans and Lakers to offset that. Otherwise, they’ve played some really strong teams and haven’t been embarrassed. Let’s go Knicks!

  53. Blisstaps Morefingers
    Christaps Jeezingis
    Chicktaps Fingzigis
    Tunataps Sandwingis
    Snapcracks Popzingis
    WORLDSTAR

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