Two common refrains are circulating the web concerning the New York Knicks’ rumored acquisition of point guard Jalen Brunson. The first goes something like, “LOL! The Knicks overpay again!” That one is easy to dismiss outright. Even the most liberal estimates of his salary for next year put him outside the top ten highest-paid point guards in the league, per Spotrac.
The second chorus of jeers is shorter but arguably cuts much deeper: “He doesn’t fit.” This one cuts deeper because it feels right. Brunson needs to be surrounded by good shooters who will clear driving lanes for him to hit his offensive ceiling.
Likewise, every Knicks fan knows in their core that RJ Barrett and Julius Randle are also most successful inside the 3-point arc. That’s going to clog the lane for Brunson.
Every Knicks fan knows that Mitchell Robinson does nothing to stretch the floor on offense. As a result, Brunson has a clogged driving lane.
The Brunson signing has gone from a solid move to continue adding young talent to a cause for concern and spiraling.
Data proves that Jalen Brunson will be a good fit for the Knicks
Stuff your woes in a sack, Knicks fans! There’s data out there that might put your mind at ease.
See, per ShotQuality (all remaining data comes from ShotQuality unless otherwise noted), the Knicks are a better catch-and-shoot team than people would like to believe. New York was 12th in the league last year in catch-and-shoot efficiency at 1.14 points per possession.
We’ll start by analyzing the data for other currently projected starters (excluding Robinson): Randle, Barrett, and Evan Fournier. Those three players were at 1.04, 1.06, and 1.26, respectively. In addition, all three had at least four categories of catch-and-shoot threes where they ranked above average league-wide.
What if other moves happen and we see Immanuel Quickley and/or Obi Toppin join Brunson in the starting five? They averaged 1.18 and 0.83 points per possession on catch-and-shoot three opportunities.
Generally speaking, the problem for the Knicks last year wasn’t efficiency. It was frequency. New York was 23rd in the league in catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts.
Fans could blame a million factors for that data point, but chief among them was not having a point guard (or initiator in the case of Barrett and Randle) who routinely punished defenses at the rim. That weakness is Brunson’s primary strength.
It will require adjustments, primarily for Barrett and Randle, who will need to allow Brunson to run more of the offense. However, if everyone can make that adjustment, the whole offense will become more efficient.