Knicks eye big step forward in one important shooting category

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The New York Knicks are trying to adapt their game to the modern NBA, which involves shooting high percentage three-pointers. With a focus on defense, head coach Tom Thibodeau is preparing to add the next element to his team, which surprisingly ended up a top-five team in three-point efficiency during the 2020-21 season.

Last year, the Knicks finished at 39.2% in three-point percentage but only attempted 30 per game, a number that fell far below the Brooklyn Nets and LA Clippers, who finished at 36.1% and 34.7%, respectively (the two teams who shot even better).

The goal this upcoming season is to remain consistent but also increase their attempts per game, taking the right shots instead of just heaving up prayers like the Cleveland Cavaliers did, finishing a league-worst 33.6% from beyond the arc.

“We want the right 3s,” head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I thought our percentage was a reflection of taking the right ones. Like I don’t want to take random ones where we don’t have floor balance and we can’t get back. So to get the defense to collapse, to attack it before it’s set where we have a numerical advantage, but to take the right ones. So try to get away from the long two.”

The Knicks found pockets of success last year to help them secure the 4th Seed in the Eastern Conference. Specifically, RJ Barrett found a home in the corner, hitting three-point shots, and Julius Randle saw his percentage increase nearly 14% from 27.7% to 41.1%. Almost the entire team saw increases in their efficiency from three-point range, and now they’re adding an even more lethal scorer in Evan Fournier. Last year, the Knicks deployed Reggie Bullock in the shooting guard spot, and now Fournier will take over after averaging 17.1 points and hitting on 41.3% of his shots from deep last season.

If that wasn’t enough, they also acquired Kemba Walker, who blows Elfrid Payton out of the water in every scoring category. When Walker is playing well, he’s capable of hitting around 38% of his three-point attempts, but he is a high clip shooter, shooting 8.2 attempts per game last season.

The team is being built around a 3-and-D mentality, but they still have their bulldozers capable of attacking the paint efficiently in Randle, Barrett, Walker, and Derrick Rose. A nicely curated squad full of different players with different skill sets will contribute instantly toward a season with elevated expectations. Theoretically, after upgrading the point guard and shooting guard spots, they should be in line to take another step forward. Making more three-point attempts per game while hovering around the 39% success rate mark would be tremendous.

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