Category Archives: New York Knicks

J.R. Smith’s shooting spree in charts

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J.R. Smith’s shooting chart over his last seven games.

While the Knicks’ season is veering off a cliff, J.R. Smith has come out with guns blazing in each of his last seven games, for better or for worse. He’s been one of the league’s leading scorers during that stretch at 23.7 per, much of it thanks to emptying the clip from beyond the arc by attempting 12.7 threes per game (!!!) and doubling his total attempts for the season in just two weeks. This was all capped yesterday afternoon when he set the record for attempted threes in a game with 22, a decent summary of the Knicks’ season and something only believable if it happened to, well, Smith himself.

But while some of those attempted threes have been cringe-worthy, Smith’s shooting over the last seven games has averaged out to decent efficiency: Nearly 24 points per game on about 18 shots and shooting splits of 48.5/46.3/100. Beyond the arc is where Smith’s done most of his damage, and by fooling around with similar charts I’ve used to visualize point distribution for teams we can see the shift in Smith’s scoring from his first 63 games to his last seven and even last three where he’s averaging 29.3 points. (If only that kind of scoring were sustainable, for NBA Twitter’s sake.)

The first chart we’ll look at is point per location from the normal six areas of the floor: restricted area, in the paint (non-restricted area), mid-range, corner three, above the break three, and free throws. As an example, below is Smith’s point distribution per game through his first 63 outings:

jr smith ppl england

Smith’s scoring weighed heavily toward the above the break three, for better or for worse, with nearly six points (5.62 to be exact) coming from that area of the floor. No other area gets as many as three points, with mid-range being the second most frequent scoring area at 2.86 points per.

Now, below features the graph previously mentioned along with his scoring distribution per game over his last seven outings and last three:

Smiff PPL

Click to enlarge. Quite helpful!

The very first chart provided shrinks considerably thanks to the max values provided to fit in Smith’s recent, unreal three-point barrage, and for the most part that’s all where he’s scored from. About three-fifths of his points coming from that scoring zone over his last seven games and two-thirds over his last three. The corner three and mid-range areas get some attention as well, but anywhere inside the paint and at the stripe has been mostly neglected.

Lastly, here’s a GIF of the increase:

smiff ppl on Make A Gif

While Smith’s upped his three-point attempts, the uptick in usage from 20.8 in his first 63 games to 25.9 over his last seven hasn’t hurt his overall efficiency. In fact, during the recent stretch, Smith’s effective field goal percentage is 62.2 compared to a pedestrian 48.6 during his first 63 games.

Below hopefully shows that increase from five spots on the floor, minus free throw shooting. A reminder should be given that Smith’s shots recently have largely come from the perimeter. He’s only taken a combined two shots per game from the two areas inside the paint.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

And like with points per location, below is a GIF of the increase in EFG% across the three stretches of games:

smiff EFG% on Make A Gif

Surely this isn’t sustainable, though there’s only four games left for the Knicks so we might see Smith lock and load until season’s end. New York doesn’t play another game until Friday anyway, giving him plenty of time to rest his shooting hand.

Edit: Previously, I mentioned that Smith holds the record for games with 10+ 3PA with four, but according to Basketball-Reference there’s actually a tie between multiple players for seven straight games of 10+ attempts. There’s still time for Smith to join that group as his streak is still alive, but for now he has a few games to go.

All stats are according to NBA.com.

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The Knicks’ recent overreliance on the jump shot

The last couple of Knicks games have been, well, rather Knicksy. Their defense has been lacking and badly, allowing 114.6 per 100 possessions according to NBA.com. Recently, though, New York’s scoring efficiency (104.7 points/100 possessions) has actually been higher than their average rate of 103.9 in their other 54 games, and how they distributed their shots across the floor is more than worth discussing by itself.

By design, New York takes a lot of shots from the perimeter, most notably when Carmelo Anthony is playing power forward. That’s usually fine since that happened for most of 2013 and their offense finished third in scoring efficiency. This season’s starting lineups have been different for a lot of reasons, but during the last two games their lineup had a makeup similar to 2013: Anthony at power forward with Tyson Chandler, two point guards, and a small forward to space the floor that’s currently J.R. Smith, though Iman Shumpert would likely start in his place if he were healthy.

The result has been A LOT of shots outside the paint, for better or worse. Below are their shot charts against Orlando and Atlanta with the former on the left and the latter on the right, via ESPN.com:

NY-ORL 2-21

The love for the jump shot is probably more noticeable against Orlando when the Knicks attempted 73 field goals outside the paint, according to NBA.com, which is the second-highest total by any team this season and surpassed only by their incredibly Knicksy game at Milwaukee on December 18. The percentage of shots they took outside the paint against Orlando, however, was the highest by any team at 76.84 percent, well above their league-leading average of 61. As for their outing against Atlanta, it was the 15th-highest percentage by any team at 70.79.

Teams on average take 52.7 percent of their shots outside the paint. I’ll have another blog post sharing a table of that, among other things. For now, here’s where the Knicks’ last two games fit in with the 21 other instances of excessive perimeter shooting:

New York

The Knicks are responsible for five of those 23 games and are the only team to pull them off in consecutive ones.

Anthony, Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Raymond Felton combined for 109 of those 136 shots outside the paint, though they’re not totally bad attempts. Obviously, three-pointers are worth more than 20-foot twos and the Knicks took seven more threes on average than they normally would, but they also took 11 more mid-range shots per game. The shots that vanished were from around the rim, taking eight less attempts per game against Atlanta and Orlando. Even Chandler, who supplied a good chunk of the attempts around the rim thanks to alley-oops, got in on the fun from the dead zone of the floor but had little success.

Below is a simple breakdown of New York’s shot locations with the last two games bolded. The other 54 games are in regular font:

The same accuracy from the arc is nice to see, though Anthony hit some insane, heavily contested attempts during that stretch which helps explain the lower assist percentage. The mid-range accuracy is also steady but Amar’e Stoudemire and Anthony, for example, had upticks from there while combining for six less shots around the rim per game. For Anthony, some of that’s obvious when looking at his scoring outbursts from those games. He’d have isolations against a defender like Tobias Harris, someone he could probably take off the dribble whenever he wanted, but pulled up from either the arc or mid-range with (to his credit) decent success.

Overall, the Knicks’ shot distribution was out of whack when factoring in how many shots were taken in high-efficiency spots (around the rim and the arc) versus low-efficiency ones (non-restricted area spots in the paint and mid-range). New York took about the same number of shots from each with a 49-46 high-low efficiency distribution versus Orlando and 45-44 against Atlanta. That’s not exactly great when teams on average take about 57.5 percent of their shots either around the rim or from the three-point line, and each of those games placed among the bottom 25 percent of all outings this season in terms of what percentage of a team’s shots were taken from high-efficiency spots of the floor.

For the season, New York has been slightly above average with their distribution between high-efficiency shots and low ones, currently at 58.1 percent. Part of that isn’t surprising when they take the sixth-most threes per game, but they also take more shots from mid-range than they do at the rim, something the Blazers, Pacers, Wizards, Cavaliers, Magic, and Celtics do. Last year, 66.1 percent of their shots were from around the rim or three. That would’ve ranked 2nd this year.

Is this all something to panic over? The Knicks are in a state of panic as is. As constructed, though, they’re a team that relies on scoring with range with or without some their players currently injured. Once in a while there will be nights like the last two where they’ll fall head over heels in love with the jump shot, and along with their inconsistent defense it will cost them games. To be an optimist, though, there’s also the potential for their shooting to catch fire and get them back in the playoff hunt. Heck, it might open up more looks at the rim.

Whether New York lives or dies by the jump shot, it’s been remarkable watching just how much they can attach to it. They’ll host Dallas tonight, a team in the middle of the pack in allowing both shots around the rim and threes, according to NBA.com. Whether the Knicks continue to look allergic to the paint is something to look for along with the chance Vince Carter scores a season-high at the Garden.

Seven thoughts on New York’s worst defensive sequence yet

So far, the New York Knicks’ season hasn’t gone so well. A new low was reached last night, summarizing the first 10 games of their season. Check out this defense:

My thoughts:

1) AMARE WHY?!?!      

2) Josh Smiths pass was initially a shot then passed in midair, so that’s a slight buzzkill. I’ve seen players on offense get mixed up on passes that were initially shots, especially whoever’s posting up to which they’ll turn around as if to get the rebound.

But I’ve never saw a defender do that until now, and it’s awesome.

3) What is Andrea Bargnani doing? Instead of defending the rim, he sticks with Andre Drummond, who’s no threat whatsoever anywhere outside five feet. Bargnani knows he’s seven feet tall, the center for the Knicks, and that Peyton Siva is a foot shorter than him, right? It’s a less obvious mistake, but comedy nonetheless.

4) To go along with #2, J.R. Smith and Bargnani basically did the opposite of what I thought would happen. Smith’s guarding Kyle Singler, the guy supposed to stretch the floor for Detroit, but whatevs! He contests Siva’s layup when it really should’ve been Bargnani.

5) But really, just hack Drummond and get him to the line no matter the situation, as long as there’s over two minutes left in the game. He only took five free throws last night, which blows my mind. On the bright side, Drummond upped his free throw percentage to 17.6 percent. So there’s that.

6) Mike Woodson‘s expression doesn’t change. Neither does anyone’s on the bench. That is, except for Carmelo Anthony, whose reaction is priceless.

7) Time for a players-only meeting.

Throwback Thursday video: Scottie Pippen dunks on Patrick Ewing, leaves a high five hanging

I forgot to include a Throwback Thursday video last week, so I’ll include two today.

The first one comes from the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, a year without Michael Jordan but that didn’t matter to Scottie Pippen. After putting in a season that cemented himself as more than just a sidekick to Jordan, he had himself a highlight Jordan himself performed three years earlier: a memorable dunk on Patrick Ewing:

Lots of stuff to look at here.

First, Pippen and Ewing’s flattops are sooo ’90s. Good stuff.

And even back then, players got technical fouls for taunting. That caught me off-guard. Still, Ewing doesn’t become a spaz, instead reacting quite well to being put on (yet another) poster. Maybe that’s because he knew ’94 was his year to get by the Bulls, or maybe because he had Charles Oakley by his side, or maybe he knew guys like Spike Lee and John Starks would tweak for him. Such team players, except Spike’s not a Knick. Someone tell him that already. We’re in 2013 and he has moments where he acts like he’s the second coming of Latrell Sprewell.

Last but not least, here’s a shoutout to Pete Myers. Go to 1:35 and see one of the best high fives left hanging of all-time.

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