There are few things in life more terrifying that a Knicks sophomore in the midst of an early-season slump. This franchise has a disturbing recent history of finding promising rookies, only to see them fall off dramatically in their second season. Tim Hardaway, Iman Shumpert, Landry Fields. Riddle me this, fellow travelers: When the last time a young Knick had a decent rookie campaign, and then actually showed improvement the following year?
That is why Langston Galloway's recent downturn in form terrifies me far more than it should. Langstarr has been absolutely abysmal over the Knicks' past four games -- all losses -- averaging 3.5 points on 18.8-percent shooting, including a ghastly 1-13 from three.
Now, this is a good time to point out that Galloway's 2015-16 numbers are still superior to his rookie numbers in pretty every way possible (per Basketball-Reference):
His usage rate is down (of course) and his lower assist rate is offset by his reduced turnover rate. That's great! But the kid is certainly struggling to score at the moment. And that is a surprisingly big problem for the Knicks.
This club certainly has a great deal more offensive firepower than the motley crew that stumbled through the second half of last season; Galloway's scoring contributions have tipped the balance in the Knicks' favor on many a night. Galloway has scored at least nine points in half of the Knicks' 18 games. When he cracks that nine-point barrier, the Knicks usually win:
|9 or more
|8 or fewer
So what's the deal with Galloway's scoring slump? We knew he wasn't going to hit half of his threes, but there's a lot going on here besides a little three-point shooting regression.
1. He stopped getting to the free-throw line
One of the cooler facets of Galloway's early-season dominance was his ability to draw fouls. He doesn't really possess the skill set needed to finish at the rim with regularity, but found ways to draw contact and get to the line at an average of 3.1 free-throw attempts through his first eight games. That script has completely flipped over the last few weeks; Galloway has shot zero free throws in seven of his last 10 games.
One thing I've noticed recently is that Galloway has been getting his shot blocked pretty consistently of late without getting foul calls, and he's adjusting by testing out a variety of floaters. Those shots are great if you can hit them consistently; if you can't then you become Raymond Felton.
2. His mid-range jumper is way off
This one isn't a recent trend; it's been going on all season. Last year Galloway could hit that pull-up mid-range J consistently (you may recall Clyde gushing about it on a regular basis). So far, that hasn't been there. Galloway has hit a paltry 32.6 percent of his 2-point jumpers this season, which boggles the mind when you consider he's shooting 45 percent from beyond the arc.
3. He's the Knicks' default end-of-the-shot-clock shooter
You probably noticed Galloway bricking a few desperation heaves toward the end of the Rockets game. That was no isolated incident; he has taken 13 percent of his shots within final four seconds of the shot clock -- one of the highest numbers in the league. Combine that with the number of shots he takes with the shot clock turned off, nearly one out of every five Galloway attempts come with the threat of a looming buzzer. We're talking J.R. Smith territory here.
Clearly, taking that many last-second shots is not good for the ol' effective field goal percentage (per NBA Stats):
As the Knicks' offense has bogged down of late, Galloway has become the team's de facto garbage man, chucking the shots nobody else wants to chuck. Part of that is his own damn fault -- he, like Jose Calderon, often waits far too long to make a decision with the ball. He dishes the rock with 10 seconds left, the rock comes back to him with 2.7 seconds left, and it's prayer time.
Langston Galloway has sort of a chicken-or-egg relationship with the Knicks' offense as a whole. He's not going to take over the game by himself; he needs to work within the frame of the offense. But he is also an important cog in that offense -- when he's on, Galloway moves the ball without turning it over, directs traffic and hits big shots when all else fails. The kid is smart and hard-working; if anyone can continue to overcome the Knicks' sophomore curse, it's him.