One Team, One Stat: New York Knicks mired in mid-range
NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2018-19 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the New York Knicks, who were still mired in the mid-range.
The Knicks’ ratio of 3-point attempts to mid-range attempts was just 1.03, the lowest in the league.
Last season was the first in which every single team attempted more shots from 3-point range than they did from mid-range (between the paint and the 3-point line). Just seven seasons ago, there were only four teams that attempted more threes than mid-range shots.
The Knicks were one of those four teams. For five straight seasons – from 2008-09 (Mike D’Antoni’s first season as Knicks head coach) through 2012-13 – the Knicks ranked in the top three in three-to-mid-range ratio. That included the only two seasons – ’10-11 and ’12-13 – in the last 40 years that the Knicks ranked in the *top five in offensive efficiency.
* Also the only two seasons in the last 26 years that they’ve ranked in the top 10. Either way you frame it, it ain’t been pretty.
But they slipped to 17th in three-to-mid-range ratio in 2013-14, and then to 25th in ’14-15, the season in which Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher installed the triangle offense (or “triangle principles”). And they’ve remained in the bottom six for four straight seasons. Even with the departures of both Jackson and Carmelo Anthony (who attempted 1,511 more mid-range shots than threes in his 6 1/2 seasons with the Knicks), the team barely saw a budge in its ratio, which, at 1.03, was about 1/6 that of the Houston Rockets (6.17).
In fact, the Knicks actually took a lower percentage of their shots from 3-point range last season (27 percent, 29th in the league) than they did the season prior (28 percent, 25th). They were one of two teams – San Antonio (26th, 27th) was the other – that ranked in the bottom five in both 3-point percentage (27th) and the percentage of shots that came from 3-point range (29th). They just saw a big increase in shots in the paint.
The Knicks were actually a decent shooting team last season, ranking 12th in field goal percentage at 46.4 percent. But because of their low rate of threes, they ranked 24th in effective field goal percentage (51.0 percent). Only Minnesota had a smaller differential between the two percentages.
Last season, Kristaps Porzingis led the league with 9.0 catch-and-shoot jumpers per game, but only 49 percent of his catch-and-shoot jumpers were from beyond the arc. League-wide, 81 percent of catch-and-shoot jumpers were threes, and Porzingis was one of only nine players who attempted at least *200 catch-and-shoot jumpers, with more than half of them coming from inside the arc.
* In total, 134 players took at least 200 catch-and-shoot jumpers, according to Second Spectrum tracking.
As the table above clearly illustrates, the league has quickly realized the relative value of 3-pointers and mid-range shots. Over the last three seasons, the league has shot 36 percent from 3-point range, yielding a value of 1.07 points per attempt. At the same time, it has shot 40 percent from mid-range, yielding a value of just 0.80 points per attempt.
Last season, having a league-average three-to-mid-range ratio (1.77) instead of the league low (1.03) would have been worth an additional 133 points for the Knicks. That translates to a jump from 24th to 17th in offensive efficiency and an additional five wins.
Five additional wins wouldn’t have got the Knicks anywhere close to playoff position. And, without Porzingis for at least a couple of months, it’s doubtful that they’ll be competing for a spot in the postseason this year. But the time is now for new head coach David Fizdale to build a foundation for how the Knicks are going to play on both ends of the floor.
It was five years ago that Brett Brown did just that in Philadelphia, and the Sixers jumped from 28th to third in three-to-mid-range ratio in his first season (more than doubling the team’s rate of the season prior). Suffering from a lack of talent, Philly proceeded to rank 30th in offensive efficiency in each of Brown’s first four years, but the Sixers had the league’s most improved offense last season and look like a perennial Eastern Conference contender, playing the same way (with pace and space) that they’ve been playing since Brown took over.
In Fizdale’s first season in Memphis, the Grizzlies jumped from 23rd (0.87) to 12th (1.51) in three-to-mid-range ratio, so we can expect the Knicks to at least climb out of the basement this year.
Note: The above table is based on true possession counts. Other efficiency stats here are based on possession estimates (typically higher than true possession counts).
KNICKS NOTES – GENERAL
- Five-year playoff drought is the second longest in the Eastern Conference (behind the six-year drought of the Orlando Magic).
- One of two teams (the Lakers are the other) that rank in the bottom five in both offensive and defensive efficiency over the last five years.
- Outscored by 8.9 points per game, the biggest discrepancy in the league, from 3-point range last season.
- Tied – with Philadelphia (25-4) – for the most losses after leading by at least 20 points. They were 15-4 after leading by 20-plus.
- Had the league’s second biggest home-road NetRtg differential, outscoring their opponents by 0.1 points per 100 possessions at home and getting outscored by 8.6 on the road.
KNICKS NOTES – OFFENSE
- Have ranked in the bottom 10 in effective field goal percentage in each of the last four seasons and in the bottom 10 in free throw rate (FTA/FGA) in each of the last five.
- Ranked 22nd offensively (104.1 points scored per 100 possessions) at the time of Porzingis’ injury (Feb. 6). Ranked 23rd (104.2) thereafter.
- Got 9.7 points per game, third most in the league, from roll men, according to Synergy play-type tracking.
- Scored just 0.80 points per possession on isolations. That was the fourth worst rate in the league, according to Synergy play-type tracking.
KNICKS NOTES – DEFENSE
- Have been a worse-than-average defensive team in 16 of the last 17 seasons.
- Ranked 17th defensively (106.1 points allowed per 100 possessions) at the time of Porzingis’ injury (Feb. 6). Ranked 30th (113.0) thereafter.
- One of three teams – Memphis (3) and Phoenix (4) were the others – that ranked in the bottom 10 in at least three of the four factors on defense.
- Saw the league’s second biggest decrease in the percentage of opponent shots that came from the restricted area, from 36 percent (league’s highest rate) in 2016-17 to 32 percent (11th highest rate) last season.
- Allowed only 0.76 points per possession on isolations, the best mark in the league.
- Allowed a league-high 258 corner 3-pointers.
KNICKS NOTES – LINEUPS
- Most-used lineup – Jarrett Jack, Courtney Lee, Tim Hardaway Jr., Porzingis and Enes Kanter – outscored its opponents by 7.4 points per 100 possessions, though it allowed opponents to make 13.2 3-pointers per 48 minutes, the most among 48 lineups that played at least 200 total minutes together.
- Most-used lineup with five players that are returning this season played just 38 minutes together.
- Allowed just 95.9 points per 100 possessions in 366 minutes with Porzingis and Frank Ntilikina on the floor together, 107.9 points per 100 possessions in 2,527 minutes with one of the two on the floor, and 113.8 points per 100 possessions in 1,072 minutes with neither on the floor.
- Were at their best offensively (110.4 points scored per 100 possessions) with Trey Burke on the floor.
KNICKS NOTES – INDIVIDUAL
- Trey Burke shot 53.6 percent from mid-range, the fourth best mark among 146 players who attempted at least 100 mid-range shots.
- Tim Hardaway Jr. shot 31.7 percent from 3-point range, the worst mark among 40 players who attempted at least 400 threes.
- Mario Hezonja had an effective field goal percentage of 51.5 percent, up from 42.0 percent in 2016-17. That was the second biggest jump among 206 players with at least 300 field goal attempts both seasons.
- Enes Kanter led the league in offensive rebounding percentage, grabbing 16.5 percent of available offensive boards while he was on the floor. He also ranked fourth in total rebounding percentage (23.7 percent).
- Kanter shot 55 percent on post-ups, the second best mark among 40 players with at least 100 post-up field goal attempts.
- Kanter took 65 percent of his shots in the restricted area. That was the seventh highest rate among 180 players with at least 500 field goal attempts. The 67 percent he shot in the restricted area was a career high.
- Courtney Lee is one of nine players who have shot better than 40 percent on at least 250 3-point attempts in each of the last two seasons.
- Lee shot 91.9 percent from the free throw line last season. Among 193 players with at least 100 free throw attempts, only Stephen Curry (92.1 percent) was better.
- Frank Ntilikina had an effective field goal percentage of 41.4 percent, the worst mark among 269 players with at least 300 field goal attempts. Emmanuel Mudiay had the fifth worst mark (43.3 percent) among that same group. Ntilikina’s effective field goal percentage of 32.4 percent in the third quarter was the worst mark for any player in a quarter in which he attempted at least 100 shots.
- Kristaps Porzingis had a usage rate of 31.1 percent, seventh in the league and up from 24.4 percent in 2016-17. That was the third biggest increase among 235 players who played at least 500 minutes in ’16-17 and at least 1,000 minutes last season.
- Opponents shot 49.2 percent at the rim when Porzingis was there to protect it. That was the best rim-protection mark among 41 players who defended at least four shots at the rim per game in 40 games or more.
- Porzingis recorded assists on just 4.9 percent of his possessions, the lowest rate among 285 players who averaged at least 15 minutes in 40 games or more. His assist-turnover ratio of 0.61 was the worst mark among the top 50 players in usage rate.
- Lance Thomas was the only player who took at least 100 2-point shots and at least 100 3-point shots (227 players total) and shot better from 3-point range (40.3 percent) than he did from 2-point range (36.4 percent).
NBA TV’s Knicks preview premieres at 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Oct. 2.
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