Win versus loss splits can often be kind of silly to read too much into because most players obviously play well, or at least better, in the games won by their team. Look up any key rotational player and you’re most likely going to see that statistics like their points per game, assists per game, shooting percentage, made threes, etc. are better in wins. That’s usually why the team wins those games.
But sometimes, you’ll see patterns within those splits that are much more significant in meaning. And that’s what we might have with Jalen Brunson and his three-point shooting splits. In wins this season, Brunson is currently shooting an impressive 57% from three and making an average of four three-pointers a game, which is significantly higher than the 28.4% he is shooting from three and the 1.7 made threes he averages in losses. Now, it’s clear that the better he, or anyone for that matter, shoots from three, the Knicks are more likely to win the game. And it also needs to be stated that some of those numbers are a little bit skewed after his historic 50-point performance against the Suns where he went 9/9 from deep. But with many of the Knicks’ key players, the difference is a lot less stark.
Julius Randle’s three-point percentage goes from 24.6% to 34.7%, which is a 10% increase in wins, RJ Barrett’s percentage goes from 27.5% to 38.8%, which is about an 11% increase in wins, Quentin Grimes’ percentage goes from 33.9% to 40.9%, which is about a 7% increase in wins, Donte DiVincenzo’s percentage goes from 36.2% to 50.7%, which is about a 14% increase in wins, and Immanuel Quickley’s percentage goes from 36.7% to 37.2%, which is a minuscule difference. As you can see, all the key players shoot better in wins, which is completely expected. But the difference in their percentages is not nearly as significant or crucial, as Brunson’s, which is nearly a 30% difference.
In November, Fred Katz wrote about Jalen’s practice routine. ($) Per Katz, the Knicks have a 4-point line positioned a few feet beyod the traditional 3-point line at their Tarrytown practice facility. Brunson has followed a consistent routine over two summers, dedicating about 80 minutes every practice to precise shooting from five spots along this line. So far, it’s clear the hard work is paying off.
Now, there are a multitude of factors that go into a game and whether the Knicks win or not. How do they look defensively? What are the matchups? How is Randle playing? Does the bench have an advantage? Can the rebounding make enough of a difference? All of these things play an important role and are worth keeping an eye on as the game goes on. But at this point, it may not be a stretch to say that it is Brunson and his outside shooting that has the biggest impact on the result of Knicks games.
Their defense was very solid in the fourth quarter against the Suns and it was as good as we’ve seen in a while against the Lakers, but for the most part, outside of those five quarters, they’ve been pretty consistently abysmal on that end of the floor for much of the last two weeks, and that might not change anytime soon. Outside of a couple of games here and there, Randle has been incredibly consistent since his cold start, and it’s looking likely that he’s going to continue being reliable for the most part. The bench, despite having its hiccups at times this season, currently ranks sixth in the league in net rating, so you can count on them to have the upper hand on most nights, and the same goes for their rebounding, which remains strong, ranking seventh in the league. As you can see, this team, for the most part, has a lot of constants and consistencies. Some of those things that we can expect from them, like the team defense, or lack thereof, aren’t positives. But you get the gist.
And that’s where Brunson’s three-point shooting comes back into play. Of the major individual and team and statistics, it has one of, if not, the largest variances while having one of the largest impacts on the game. From this alone, we can make the argument that the team needs him to make his threes to win games. Again, it’s not the end all be all, and might mean less as the season goes on. Maybe the season and the team’s success will end up relying more on Barrett’s play, Mitchell Robinson’s return, or how good the trio of Quickley, Grimes, and DiVicenzo can be. But right now, with the way the team is built, and the way the team is playing, it’s imperative that Brunson shoots, and makes, his three-point attempts at a high clip to make up for the team’s lack of defense and offensive deficiencies, especially during their current tough stretch of games.