The New York Knicks lost a competitive game against the Chicago Bulls on Sunday evening, despite a dominant performance from Julius Randle, scoring 34 points over 39 minutes. However, the starting unit as a whole has been wildly inconsistent as of late, dragging the team down and forcing the second unit to pick up the slack, which isnâ€™t sustainable over the course of an entire season against quality opponents.
One of the Knicks’ most significant liabilities early in the year has been free agent acquisition Evan Fournier, who signed a four-year, $73 million deal to feature as the team’s shiny new shooting guard. Fournier was expected to bring elite shooting with creation abilities, replacing Reggie Bullock and his spot-up style. However, his entire game is changing based on the advanced analytics, showcasing a player who isnâ€™t scoring enough on his own and missing easy opportunities to produce, putting more pressure on the defense.
â€œVery inconsistent, obviously,â€ Fournier said at Knicks practice Friday. â€œKind of like what weâ€™ve been doing as a team, to be honest.
â€œWeâ€™ve had really good games. Weâ€™ve had bad games. â€¦ In  games, youâ€™ve seen my best and worst already.â€
Fournier tried to chalk it up as a team issue, but he simply isnâ€™t playing at the top of his game, posting just three points on 1-of-7 shooting from the field in the loss to Chicago. In fact, over the last five games, he has only breached seven points once, against a league-worst Huston Rockets team, where he posted 19 on 53.8% shooting.
Oddly, the Knicks’ new piece started the year with efficient scoring production, posting double-digit outings in four of his first five contests. Since then, heâ€™s landed in the five points per game range on average, watching his shooting percentage plummet and his minutes decrease because of it. If you ignore his one positive performance, which seems to be an anomaly among a sample size of negative outings, he hasnâ€™t shot above 33% from deep once this entire season.
Looking into his statistics further, his percent of three-point field goals made unassisted has dropped significantly this year to just 2.6% after posting 17+ percent over the past two seasons. In addition, his percent of points off turnovers has plummeted to 6.4% after recording above 10% in every season since entering the NBA. His free-throw points have dropped astronomically and most of his points are coming off assisted shots, showing a lack of creation and efficiency.
Ultimately, Fournier simply isnâ€™t producing at a level heâ€™s used to, which is likely a direct result of fewer minutes and a team not necessarily needing him to take the reins on an everyday basis. He clearly lacks confidence and doesnâ€™t have great defensive attributes or metrics to justify him staying on the court if heâ€™s not offensively productive.
Tom Thibodeau is going to have to make some tough decisions in the coming days, and it is going to start with reducing Fournier’s minutes to a complementary role until he can improve his shooting.