You may remember me from such films as "How to Lose Years Off of Your Life Being a Knicks Fan" or "Fuck Paul Pierce". I'm here to tell you today that despite our all around dominance this season there are areas of the team that need to improve, specifically guard play.
Unfortunately for our lovable band of losers led by a lanky Latvian and LaLa's lover (alliteration is cool right?) the only PG of surefire quality this summer is one Mike Conley and I'm not interested in signing him because
he's a Buckeye his Achilles is paining him and I don't believe he's worth his max contract even under the new cap moving forward. As the sole star level PG on the market and years of being "the most underrated player in the league" Conley is definitely getting the max considering the dearth of options at his position and the number of teams with butt loads of cap space.
Even if we pass on Conley (likely he'd actually pass on us lol) we can't stand around and not improve our guard play this summer. Is there another guard position in the game of basketball that we could improve on? Do we need to add a piece there? Can Sasha Vujacic teach us all the secrets to dating Maria Sharapova (PEDs)? The answer is yes to all of these questions.
So what to do? What are our current options and what exactly do we need from a team wide standpoint?
I'm glad you asked, because from various threads in which debates have varied from Phil Jackson's mental state, the value of a certain geometrically named offensive system, Melo's timeline, etc. there does seem to be some consensus that we could use a guard that can drive, shoot and defend credibly. Luckily for us there may be some options with those skills in mind this summer.
I want to start by examining two such SG's who are attractive both because they provide skills that we need, fit our Square Split By a Diagonal Line Offense and whose age profiles make them intriguing fits both in the short and long-term, Evan Fournier and Tyler Johnson, both of whom are 23 years old.
This is the Knicks' shot chart for this season
Ok so as we can see from the stats on the left we're really below average in a lot of categories, including assists, FG% and 3P% (aka guard things) and from the shot chart we can see we really suck at shooting from beyond the arc, but most concerningly the types of 3's we generate, above the break, are a major issue as well as finishing at the rim. Let's try and fix these things!
Evan Fournier Shot Chart:
To be clear these percentages are shown in relation to league average, so what this is telling us is that Fournier is a damn near elite shooter from above the break, something we desperately need and he's done it on a fairly large sample. On 834 career attempts, Frenchie is shooting 39.0% from 3 on 834 career attempts which is really quite excellent and better than everybody on the Knicks, non-Calderon division. Also for his career he's at 63.7% at the rim which is also really good and shits on what every other Knicks guard has accomplished this season. I like this guy a lot if that isn't apparent.
Tyler Johnson Shot Chart:
Eww gross. What's with all that red? I can hear Philluminati telling me to eat a dick right now and rightlight vomiting all over himself because this shot chart sucks. I agree, but the thing is the sample here is really small and that's because I can only get a shot chart from this season. However Johnson over his 2 years in the league, the first in which he was only signed for the last 3rd of the season for 32 games and this season which was cut short due to a rotator cuff injury to his left shoulder (THIS IS MY MAIN CONCERN WITH HIM), has shot a promising 38.1% from beyond the arc on 118 attempts. Also for his career he's at 61.2% at the rim which is quite good. The lack of volume at only 1.7 attempts per game and 2.9 per-36 is a concern for sure.
Ok, so now that we have some visual idea of what these guys have done from various zones this season, let's see how they're finishing on various shot types.
Fournier Shot Distribution:
|Catch and Shoot||NA||NA||1.7||4.1||60.5||42.5||41.8||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA|
|Ball Handler PNR||NA||22.5||1||2.5||44.6||NA||41.1||0.83||65.6||NA||NA||7.4|
|Dribble Hand Off||NA||8.1||0.4||0.9||47.4||NA||42.1||0.9||57.4||NA||NA||11|
Just a few things for clarity:
1. The frequency% is a gauge of what percentage of possessions that particular play type is being executed by the player when in the game.
2. Pass% is the percentage of times on that particular shot type a player passes.
3. AST% is the percentage of times on that particular shot type a player records an assist.
4. SF% is the percentage of times on that particular shot type that a player draws a shooting foul
5. For any of the stats that are not available for that shot type I have marked as NA as they weren't available on the NBA.com/stats page and I didn't feel like making multiple tables that would have looked cleaner and better.
Some things really stand out here that the Knicks desperately need. Fournier is a willing driver, averaging 5.3 per game and when he does, he's finishing with a bucket half the time which is something the Knicks don't do nearly enough. This driving ability really flourishes in the open court where he's in the top 15% of players in the league, which I'd bet dollars and chalupas on that not one of our current guards can lay claim too (I know this because I'm looking at the NBA.com/stats page for the Knicks and Afflalo is the only guard that's even in the top half of the league). Also Fournier is an elite spot up shooter which makes him an ideal off ball player if you have one Carmelo Anthony on your team. Really what's impressive is that across the board Fournier is an above average scorer in most shot types that you'd expect to see a guard in the Triangle get shot attempts in.
I'm very confident having watched a lot of Fournier this season and after looking at the numbers that he would be an excellent fit in New York and most teams in the league. If he struggles it may be to adapting to having to be the best scoring guard on the team, but I do think he's an ideal fit playing off of and with Melo and KP.
Per Game 2015/16:
Johnson Shot Distribution:
|Shot Type||Drives/Game||Frequency%||FGM per game||FGA per game||eFG%||3P%||FG%||PPP||Percentile||Pass%||AST%||SF%|
|Catch and Shoot||NA||NA||1||2.4||56.8||39.4||42||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA|
|Ball Handler PNR||NA||27.8||0.9||1.8||50.8||NA||50||0.93||88.9||NA||NA||7.4|
|Dribble Hand Off||NA||9.5||0.4||0.7||66||NA||60||1.23||93.8||NA||NA||13.3|
Again with Johnson the sample size, especially with the tracking data, is muuuuuuuch smaller than we have on Fournier.
That being said a lot of this is promising in terms of his scoring efficiency being as high as it was given that much of his playing time this year was out of position at the point (48%) where he was being asked to run and direct the offense, for a team that severely lacks 3 point shooting instead of getting to attack off the ball next to Dragic and/or Wade. In only 24.6 minutes per game this year his 3.5 drives per game is a nice number for an off guard and he was actually better at finishing at the rim on those than Fournier. His transition percentile is awful, but with his athleticism and 61.2% finishing at the rim overall, this seems like a small sample size issue rather than a reflection of his ability.
The biggest problem with judging Johnson is that the sample size is tiny and consists of less than a full year of NBA ball. There are promising signs including that he grades out as a plus scorer in almost every shot type, but there's likely to be ton of noise here.
Per Game Career:
While I think Johnson has some real promise it's very hard to project him as a 3rd option now or ever offensively. Maybe if the sample was bigger we could make a better prediction, but I think it's safe to say that offensively Fournier is clearly a better option and a more versatile player for now. The thing with Johnson is that he may be more attainable and cheaper for that reason.
I plan on doing a defensive comparison soon, but regardless while both would be nice additions to the Knicks, barring some ungodly defensive difference between the two Fournier would seem to clearly be a better option, though more expensive, while Johnson would represent a gamble on potential to improve, with a very promising base. I'd pay up for the more safe player with a more defined offensive skill set.
As restricted free agents I'd guess you'd have to go north of $18m to make Orlando really think about it and for Johnson the key would be offering up a poison pill deal in the 3rd year as his first two years are locked in at $5.7m max similar to our own Langston Galloway.
Edit: The shot distribution charts were compiled off of data from nba.com/stats and the per game, advanced and per-36 numbers were from basketball-reference.com