New York Knicks: Where’s all the 3-point shooting coming from?

Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images
Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images /

While they stocked up in certain areas this offseason, questions certainly surround the New York Knicks and their proficiency in long-range shooting.

The New York Knicks finished the abbreviated 2019-20 season with an abysmal 21-45 record, continuing a string of woeful seasons for the franchise. And while their struggles consisted far and wide across the board, one particular area that stood out was their 3-point shooting.

In addition to finishing 27th overall in accuracy by converting at a 33.7 percent clip, the Knicks ranked dead last with just 9.6 made triples per game. Given the explosion in 3-point shooting across the league and its importance in overall strategy, lagging behind this far in such an important area of the game is clearly cause for concern.

As a point of reference, here are the top-five 3-point percentage shooters last season for the Knicks:

  • Marcus Morris: 43.9 percent
  • Damyean Dotson: 36.2 percent
  • Allonzo Trier: 35.8 percent
  • Bobby Portis: 35.8 percent
  • Wayne Ellington: 35.0 percent

Remarkably, NOT ONE of these players remains with the Knicks entering this upcoming season. With this in mind, the Knicks have gone some way to rectifying this by signing the free agent pair of Alec Burks and Austin Rivers.

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Last season, Burks split his time between the Golden State Warriors and Philadelphia 76ers, averaging a career-high 15.0 points per game while shooting at a 38.5 percent clip from long range on a career-high 4.6 attempts per game. A versatile scorer entering his 10th season in the league, Burks will certainly be looked upon by the Knicks for his perimeter touch.

Then there’s Rivers, who also enters his 10th year in the league. A highly streaky shooter, Rivers averaged 8.8 points per game last season with the Houston Rockets, with his 35.6 percent clip from long distance marginally above his career 34.8 percent return. The only other new arrival who have some impact from 3-point range is lottery selection Obi Toppin. A versatile stretch forward, Toppin will be certainly be competing for a regular spot in the rotation as the season progresses.

The problem remaining, however, is the lack of shooting from the rest of their returning perimeter players. As a reminder, here’s how this group shot the ball from behind the arc in 2019-20:

  • Reggie Bullock: 33.8 percent (3.8 attempts per game)
  • Kevin Knox: 32.7 percent (3.1)
  • Frank Ntilikina: 32.1 percent (2.4)
  • RJ Barrett: 32.0 percent (3.5)
  • Dennis Smith Jr.: 29.6 percent (1.6)
  • Elfrid Payton: 20.3 percent (1.5)

Clearly, this is far from an impressive set of numbers. When you combine these shoddy returns with the fact that the Knicks’ frontcourt is scant in its ability to shoot the long ball, it’s safe to say there’s going to be some significant hurdles facing newly installed head coach Tom Thibodeau this season.

As a team, the Knicks had a solid 10-8 record last season when they shot 38.5 percent or better from 3-point range. Conversely, their 11-37 record over the remaining games meant they would win up finishing 12th in the Eastern Conference standings.

In short, while the Knicks’ center rotation of Mitchell Robinson and Nerlens Noel should hold up their interior defense, and the frontcourt trio of Julius Randle, Knox and Toppin each possess their own unique skill set, the lack of 3-point shooting on the roster entering the season is alarming, to say the least.

So while Tom Thibodeau may be able to work his magic at the defensive end, his New York Knicks’ fortunes will ultimately be determined by their proficiency beyond the arc.

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