Early on, the talk in New York geared towards the Brooklyn Nets and their new arena, showered with chants of “Brook-lyn, Brook-lyn, Brook-lyn.”
As always, however, the New York Knicks have grabbed the headlines and national spotlight. This time it is not Melo-Drama or anything of the sort, but instead the Knicks are surprising fans with their 17 and 5 record (1st in the Eastern Conference), largely aided by the theatrical display of three pointers.
The team currently ranks third in three point field goal percentage, connecting on 41.2% of their attempts, only behind Miami (41.9%) and OKC (41.8%). Carmelo Anthony is taking a career-high 5.6 attempts from three, while making 45.5% of them (also a career high). Jason Kidd, the one fans used to mock by calling him Ason–No J, has a 53(!!!!) three point field goal percentage. Steve Novak is doing his usual thing by making 45% of his threes.
Simply put, the Knicks are en fuego from behind the arc.
But should there be a cause for concern?
Conventional wisdom tells us that a team that “lives by the three” doesn’t find sustained success. Common sense, on the other end, tells us that if a group of professional basketball players get a lot of wide-open shots because of crisp ball movement, they should be able to make maintain their streak.
So it comes down to history and statistics against common sense and beliefs.
The Knicks are taking 29.4 threes a game, which is more than they take at the rim (25). They have the highest three point rate (3 pointers attempted divided by field goals) in the league with 35.2. The team with the second highest rate is the Houston Rockets at 31.9. This prevents them from getting to the line, as their free throw rate is only 25.7 (20th). In overall free throws attempted the Knicks rank 21st in the league.
Is this a good trend?
According to Basketball Reference, only 8 teams since the Shot Clock Era have made the playoffs (not including this year’s Knicks) by attempting more than 25 threes a game. Only one of those teams–the 2009-10 Orlando Magic– made it to the finals. However, the Knicks have the highest percentage of threes out of all of those teams. They also are on pace to take more three pointers than every single one of those teams. What is striking, though, is that the Knicks are on pace to attempt significantly less free throws than most of those teams. With playoff- bound teams like Miami, Boston, and Philly, all of whom are adept at closing off the the three by time the postseason rolls around, the Knicks may have to find easier ways to score.
Something to follow is how the infusion of Amar’e Stoudemire affects the amount of attempts from behind the line and at the stripe. While playing for the Knicks the past two years, Amar’e has averaged 6.45 free throws a game, which should help the Knicks but it will also result in them taking less threes. Many have been reluctant in judging the Knicks early season success solely because e Amar’e has yet to play game.
But if the Knicks can keep this up hot streak for the rest of the season and in the playoffs, they may find themselves hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June, and defying conventional wisdom. Until then, history is undefeated.