We’ve now seen two of the four scheduled preseason games, and while they were meaningless exhibition games there are a few interesting things to look at. Just remember, how much you take from these games and how much you apply them to the future is ultimately up to you.
1. Julius Randle’s three-point shooting
When Randle came out of nowhere to be an All-Star and an All-NBA player two seasons ago, his much-improved outside shooting played a huge part of his development. It opened up his game, as the newly added threat of an outside jump shot made it easier for him to get past defenders. But last season, his three-point shooting regressed back to the norm. It was one of the biggest reasons he was once again an inefficient volume shooter.
While his overall production relies on more than just his three-point efficiency, it may be the biggest factor in just how effective and efficient he can be on the offensive end. That is why many fans were delighted to see him go 2-4 from downtown in the first preseason game against Detroit. Sadly, he followed that up by going 1-7 from deep against the Pacers on Friday. Again, it’s just two meaningless games but he’s currently 3-11, good for just 27%. Seeing him not only struggle from three but also continue to jack up threes despite having an off night was more reminiscent of the 2021-22 Randle than the 2020-21 Randle. This should be something to keep an eye on in the remaining preseason games, as it would be nice to have both the fans and Randle himself feeling good about his outside shooting going into the season.
2. RJ Barrett’s aggressiveness and efficiency
Barrett has started off slowly on offense that last two seasons, so it was nice to see him come out of the gates aggressive and efficient. He leads the team in scoring at 19.5 PPG and is doing so at a very efficient clip, shooting 48% from the field and an incredible 58% from three. With Randle and Jalen Brunson both preferring to operate with the ball in their hands, there were (and probably still are) some concerns about how many opportunities Barrett gets. But so far, we’ve seen him get plenty of looks and convert on them.
If he can start the season hot from outside, it will greatly help his and the team’s offensive output.
Last season, the Knicks ranked ninth in the league when it came to turnovers (13.2 a game) and were very good at taking care of the ball. But it was evident that they still lacked playmaking as they ranked last in the league in assists with just 21.9 assists a game. In their limited action, they’ve combined for 26 assists a game, which would have been 5th in the league last year, while committing just 11 turnovers a game, which would have been the fewest in the league last year. Much like every other stat in preseason games, these numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt, but it’s been nice to see the team move the ball around a bit more while keeping the turnovers down.
It definitely helps that they now have Brunson, who is way more capable of running point guard duties than anyone the team has had in recent years. With Brunson now in the fold, Randle is also no longer tasked with being the main playmaker, and he’s managed 40 minutes over the first two games without committing a single turnover. If he can slide over to become a secondary playmaker — something he’s capable of doing well — then the Knicks offense could be a lot better than many expect.
4. Cam Reddish’s offensive struggles
Reddish has been an enigma, not only during his time with the Knicks but pretty much during his whole NBA career. He can look like a star in the making some nights as he knocks down fadeaway jumpers, gets to the rim at will, and creates havoc on the defensive end. Too often, however, he’ll struggle the next night to make an impact on offense while have trouble staying focused on defense. Reddish has been very aggressive so far this preseason, averaging 13 shots in 33 minutes, but has unfortunately connected on just two of those attempts. He’s done some other things well, but with Quentin Grimes currently out, this is the perfect time for the fourth-year pro to make a statement and show his improvement. Instead, it seems like he’s still forcing things too much. Unfortunately, he’ll most likely be starting the year off with very few minutes, barring a major injury.