Am I right or am I left? A different perspective on the Knicks wing positions

In terms of debate, few topics have plagued the Knicks community (specifically the Posting & Toasting community) as much as "who should start at shooting guard?" Some contend that it should be Wilson Chandler, who is probably the best athlete the Knicks have who can somewhat capably cover two-guards. Others opine that, pending health, it shouldn't be any other player than Kelenna Azubuike, who is one of the better shooters the Knicks have to offer. Others make a similar case for newly acquired Roger Mason Jr. Miketheintern's recent post on rotations offers a hyper-height line-up with Danilo Gallinari at the two. Throw in Bill Walker, Toney Douglas and potentially Landry Fields, and you have a bona fide debate not only concerning starters/non-starters, but playing time in general. Will Mike D'Antoni go with a longer rotation than he has in the past? Will We see Anthony Randolph at the three-spot? Will Gallinari prove to be defensively capable of defending quicker shooting guards even a little bit?

Well, I would like to offer a different perspective. Rather than basing wing-rotations on experience, pedigree and defensive identity, I'd like to offer some food for thought concerning something that hasn't been a topic of consideration: shooting percentages.

 

Right Shot

Right Made

Right %

Left Shot

Left Made

Left %

Right-Left Diff

Gallinari

293

119

0.41

318

120

0.38

-0.03

Chandler

214

82

0.38

170

54

0.32

-0.07

Douglas

124

46

0.37

88

37

0.42

0.05

Walker

45

21

0.47

62

24

0.39

-0.08

Mason

189

81

0.43

147

58

0.39

-0.03

Azubuike

150

55

0.37

212

85

0.40

0.03

Randolph

49

22

0.45

59

18

0.31

-0.14

Stoudemire

127

53

0.42

199

81

0.41

-0.01

Felton

171

64

0.37

171

64

0.37

0.00

 

Average:

0.41

0.38

-0.03

This table represents the shooting percentages of each potential wing player the Knicks have to offer. The statistics and percentages are each from last (regular) season, except for Kelenna Azubuike, whose stats go back to the previous season due to injury. "Right Shot" and "Left Shot" represent the volume of shots each player took from each respective side. You can figure out the rest.

Clearly, the Knicks as a unit shoot much better from the right side of the floor than from the left side. I would assume this to be the general rule for the NBA in general, as right-handed players far outnumber left-handed players. Right handed players generally have an easier time going right on the drive, so it's easy to imagine they would be better shooters from that side as well.

Getting back to the Knicks, there are some tidbits of this chart that are interesting, some that are useful, and a couple that are both.

1. Danilo Gallinari shoots the average from both sides. This could have a lot to do with the "average" being a culmination of all shot attempts, and Gallinari taking by far the most shots from each side, but it's still interesting.

2. Wilson Chandler is below average from the right side of the floor, which is unfortunate because he is deplorable from the left side.

3. Raymond Felton took the exact same number of shots last year from both sides of the floor. Think that's strange? How about: He made the exact same number from each side as well, shooting 37% from both sides.

4. Anthony Randolph's statistics are limited due to equally limited playing time, so just keep that in mind and try not to put too much stock in his numbers. The same can be said for Bill Walker, except he is both older and more of a shooter than Randolph. For both reasons, I would trust a little more in his numbers than Randolph's.

5. Toney Douglas, as expected, breaks expectations. He shot significantly better from the left side than from the right. Herein lies the basis for my article: wing pairs.

Because Douglas shoots what could be considered "very well" from the left side and "not-so-well" from the right, it would make sense to draw up plays with him on the left side. Now, all you have to do is find another wing player (preferably a taller one who could capably defend small forwards) who shoots well from the right side. Scroll down the list and take your pick of: Gallinari, Walker, Mason or Randolph. Choose the one who could defend the opposing personnel most adequately, and plug him in. You then get a "2-3" pairing of Douglas and Gallinari.

Let's try again. Take Gallinari, who you would imagine is in line for big minutes this year, and find him a counterpart who isn't Douglas. Azubuike, Mason and Walker all shoot above-average from the left, so choose one from that group. All would potentially work guarding whoever Gallinari could not, so in order to decide we have to consider other factors. Based on the personnel the opposing team puts out on the floor, do we want Gallinari driving to the hoop or shooting over his man? If the former is the case, then Mason is your answer. If the latter is the case, you'd probably want Walker or Azubuike, both of whom are proficient drivers and finishers at the rim. 

The addition of so many big men to the Knicks roster affords them the luxury of playing athletes within their positions rather than upping their statuses (David Lee, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari) from small-guy to big-guy. The remaining spots (Small Forward, Shooting Guard) can thus try to create a symbiotic relationship with one another rather than try to double-team even the most mediocre of big men. It's an exciting prospect to think of Mike D'Antoni unleashing nine or ten players per game rather than seven or eight. It means more running in the third and fourth quarters as well as better fits in terms of drivers/shooters and scorers/defenders at the smaller positions.

This should not be taken as a definitive rule, it's just something to think about in the dog days of the offseason.

Give me feedback errbody.

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