New York Knicks: Why they told Nerlens Noel to shoot 3s

New York Knicks center, Nerlens Noel, will attempt to expand his shooting range during next season. Noel told the media on September 28th that he would be taking more corner threes at the team’s request.

At first glance, the team’s request is unusual as Noel isn’t known to be a 3-point shooter. Noel took 0 threes during his only season at the University of Kentucky. Noel has been slightly more willing to take threes as a professional, attempting 10 in over seven seasons. He has only been able to convert two of those attempts.

Furthermore, the team’s request will take Noel away from his offensive strengths. Noel thrives when he is closer to the basket, shooting 68.8 percent in the restricted area on 3.4 shots per game since 2014.

He has averaged 4.6 points in the restricted area: 60.5 percent of his scoring output. One of the ways Noel routinely gets into the restricted area is as a roll man. He has averaged 1.7 roll man possessions per game, shooting 59.8 percent on 1.4 shots per game. Noel has generated 1.9 points per game as a roll man since 2015.

Unfortunately, having Noel as a roll man should be detrimental to the Knicks’ success, as the team likes to have three shooters surrounding the pick and roll ball handler and roll man during the offensive set.

Let’s take a look at why the New York Knicks decision to have Nerlens Noel shoot more threes could be related to their star Julius Randle.

The Knicks’ pick and roll setup has contributed to their best player, Julius Randle, spending more time behind the 3-point line. For example, RJ Barrett brought the ball up the court during a home game against the Chicago Bulls.

Once Barrett reached the 3-point line, he passed the ball to Randle, who gave it right back to him. Randle proceeded to stand behind the 3-point line on the right wing for the rest of the team.

While Randle stood behind the arc, Barrett began a pick and roll with Noel. Barrett went over the screen and started to drive towards the basket. However, a defender decided to block his path to the basket, which led him to throw a lob pass to Noel for a dunk.

These types of plays led to him taking a career-high in spot-up and 3-pointers, averaging 4.1 and 5.6 attempts per game, respectively, last season. Unfortunately, Randle has struggled in both areas, only converting 39.5 percent of the spot-up opportunities on 2.5 shots per game. He has performed worse from behind the arc shooting 34.2 on 2.2 attempts per game.

Randle is more effective when he is inside the arc, as he has converted 51.5 percent of his shots below the 3-point line on 11.1 attempts per game. There are several ways that the team can get Randle below the 3-point line.

They can use him in the low post as they were 14th in the league last season in post-up possessions, averaging 5.1 per game. After the low post, they could use him in isolation as they were also in the top 5 in that category, averaging 9.1 per game.

Randle has been shooting over 41 percent in post-ups and isolations on a minimum of 1.4 shots per game since 2015. Although using Randle below the 3-point line is likely to make him more consistent, it will also open the door for him to have to get past an extra defender.

Opposing teams will give Noel space until he can prove that he can make a 3-point shot consistently.

Even though the Knicks have the right conceptual idea, putting Noel behind the 3-point line is likely not to work because of his inexperience in the role.