Harris DeckerOver the past two seasons, the Knicks have ranked near the top of the league in 3-point shots taken and shots made. After being first in the league last year (in both attempts and makes), they have slipped to fifth place in attempts and seventh in makes from behind the arc. While that doesn’t seem like a huge slip, it’s important because of the way this team is playing offense.
For two years now, the offense has been predicated on making a ton of shots from outside. This is important because of the absurdly low amount of shots they take and convert inside. Last season, they were ranked thirtieth in the league in shots made inside the arc and shot 49 percent from that distance. That was good for tenth in the league. This year, they’ve slipped to 48 percent shooting inside, good for seventeenth in the NBA.
Mike Woodson’s offense is predicated on a finite balance between inside and outside shots. When one slips, the other can not make up the difference. What you get when you do the math is a team that relies heavily on the outside shot because they have trouble getting and making shots closer to the basket.
Without a true 3-point specialist, it’s easy to see the difference. There were two guys last year that were knockdown shooters from behind the arc: Jason Kidd and Steve Novak. It was silly to think that Pablo Prigioni and Andrea Bargnani could pick up that slack. While Prigioni is shooting for a much higher percentage this year (46 percent) than Kidd did last year (35 percent) from behind the arc, Kidd took way more shots. Kidd ended last year having attempted 325 3’s while Prigioni will be lucky to crack 150 this year.
There’s another side to this coin. With the slip in percentage from behind the arc, players are continuing to shoot from out there. J.R. Smith is actually right on pace from last year from behind the arc but will take more than 100 less shots inside by the seasons end. Some of that is due to the time he missed with injuries but in the end, he’s taking less shots inside while taking a similar amount of shots outside.
In the end, this season will be seen as a massive failure and an offensive shift is on the horizon. The likely implementation of the triangle will change things for the better. It will be interesting to see which players president Phil Jackson believes can thrive in that system.