Can Knicks turn around their league-worst three-point shooting?

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Nov 30, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) shoots the ball asMilwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) defends during the first quarter at Madison Square Garden.

Nov 30, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) shoots the ball asMilwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) defends during the first quarter at Madison Square Garden. / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks currently sit at 10-12 a quarter into the new season, within reach of a play-in tournament berth but struggling to string together multiple wins. One glaring reason for that has been their poor three-point shooting.

In the modern NBA, creating good looks from deep is paramount, and while New York shot well over the last two years, they’re currently dead last in the league in three-point percentage at 31.8 percent, despite an improved roster. What’s behind this inaccuracy and can they turn it around in time to save their season?

An easy place to begin is with their individual shooters. Fans don’t need to dig through spreadsheets to point to RJ Barrett’s brick-heavy start to the year, or Quentin Grimes and Immanuel Quickley’s uncharacteristically poor marksmanship.

New York currently has two guys making 35 percent of their threes: Obi Toppin and Derrick Rose. Last season’s rotation featured double that amount, the year prior damn near everybody shot the lights out.

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Julius Randle improved off last year’s lows with a 33.1 percent clip. New addition Jalen Brunson is shooting well below his recent averages.

There appears to be little explanation for some of these drop-offs. Brunson is hurting from taking more pull-ups than he’s used to, but his catch-and-shoot numbers aren’t on par either.

Barrett’s career-low 28.1 percent mark is a shocking regression. His big leap in volume and pull-up attempts last year hurt his efficiency, bringing him below league average, but nothing close to this. Perhaps this is just his latest in a line of early-season struggles that will fizzle out.

You can’t expect much more from Randle given the degree of difficulty on many of his threes. Quickley, Grimes and Cam Reddish are all historically better than this.

Talent doesn’t appear to be the issue. The Knicks benched their best shooter from last season, Evan Fournier, but he wasn’t knocking them down either. An argument can be made that Alec Burks and Reggie Bullock, past dependable wing shooters, are missed, but they were organically replaced with should-be knockdown guys.

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Is there something to the team’s shot profile or schemes as a whole that’s changed?

Judging by the location of the team’s threes, a larger portion of them are coming out of the corners compared to past seasons. These are generally easier, higher percentage looks but haven’t helped the Knicks nail them.

New York isn’t taking an extravagant amount of threes either, down in terms of percentage of total shot diet from last year. Looking at their pull-up versus catch-and-shoot splits, little has changed either.

They aren’t getting materially fewer “wide open” looks as labeled by, however they’re completely blowing those chances. The Knicks are hitting 34.6 percent of their open treys this year, compared to 40.1 percent in 2022 and 41.7 percent in 2021. This year’s number ranks them in the pits of the league, a complete reversion from the marks that were top five in prior years.

Can it really be so simple as the Knicks aren’t hitting their open shots this season, and if so, how does New York fix the issue?

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They could try messing with the rotation to be more shooter-friendly, perhaps re-integrating Fournier at the cost of an already-struggling defense. Ditching a paint-bound center to pair Randle and Toppin only barely improves their shooting.

Their latest starting five with Grimes in and Mitchell Robinson healthy is hitting threes at a league average rate, which is a major step in the right direction if it holds. Oddly enough there appears to be some correlation between Robinson being on the floor and improved deep shooting, perhaps as a result of his offensive rebounding or roll gravity.

There’s always the trade route to bring in shooting talent, but finding the right trade won’t be easy. Buddy Hield might aid one problem while worsening another, and finding a veteran like him minutes among the interesting prospects the Knicks are developing is a tricky balance. Another stopgap could be Malik Beasley, who they could theoretically acquire for Rose and a pick.

None of this matters if their highest-volume guys, specifically Randle, Barrett and Brunson, aren’t hitting. The latter two should see their averages climb back to normal on their own given their careers.

If not, the Knicks could be looking at a deeper hole to climb back to .500 as the season progresses

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