Knicks Camp Countdown: Live By The Three?

By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)

Training camp is only 28 away, so it's time to address some of the storylines that have developed over a busier-than-expected Knicks offseason. From now until the end of September when the journey officially gets under way, we'll dive into the biggest questions facing the Orange and Blue.

Next up: How will the 3-ball, a staple of last year's attack, factor into this year's offense?

No team in NBA history shot or made more three-pointers than the Knicks did last season. Thanks to this radical new approach, they became the third best offense in the entire league and won 54 games en route to a 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Whether a concerted effort or a natural byproduct of great ball movement, the results were undeniably positive.

"We are one of the top teams in shooting threes in the league -- that's pretty much what we do," said Head Coach Mike Woodson early on last season. "They're not bad shots. We've got guys that can make 'em, and if I didnt have guys that could make 'em, we wouldn't be shooting them."

As they shot -- and made -- them, efficiency skyrocketed. Threes, after all, are worth 1.5 times as much as twos, and when you have capable three-point shooters, it becomes like an addiction to get them the ball and watch them fire away. 

“Everybody knows we like to shoot the 3-ball — that’s a no-brainer,” Carmelo Anthony said back in February of last season. “I think sometimes as shooters, if we don’t make the first one, we’re going to make the next one.”

It became such a staple for New York that even when opponents knew what to expect, there was little they could do to stop it. But after a dissapointing playoffs, during which Boston and Indiana -- two outstanding defensive teams -- were able to disrupt the Knicks' long-range strategy, we are left to wonder what to expect this season.

Gone are Steve Novak and Chris Copeland, the team's two leading shooters from distance, by percentage. Jason Kidd has departed, as well, and his absence will be apparent as much because of his shooting ability as his passing instincts. After all, most NBA players are good enough to knock down open looks. What separated the Knicks last season was their ability to create such premium opportunities.

“When Tyson [Chandler] goes to the rim, you’ve got to honor that,” Kidd said last season. “You’ve also got to honor Ray [Felton] getting to the basket, Melo getting to the basket and Melo being able to get a lot of double teams. So with good ball movement, we get a lot of great shots.”

Kidd's point -- that sound fundamentals and unselfish play yield successful offense -- remains as true now as it was last season.
By and large, New York has replaced its sharp-shooting specialists with more well-rounded players like Metta World Peace, Andrea Bargnani, rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. and Beno Udrih. The thinking goes that by adding players who can pass and put the ball on the floor in addition to letting it fly, they will still be able to spread the floor and gash teams with the drive-and-kick game.
And it all starts with the focal point of the offense, Carmelo Anthony. "When I'm making them from the outside, from the perimeter, it just opens up the game that much more," he's said.
On the way to the NBA scoring title, he more doubled his three-point shooting output -- from an average of 2.9 attempts per game for his career to 6.2 last season. By embracing his new role as the power forward on offense and letting the long ball fly, he cut down on less efficient long two-point shots and, as he said, opened things up for his teammates. 

There is no reason that this can't continue. Would it be reasonable to expect another record-breaking year? Probably not -- that's a tough pace to keep up. But the principal cogs to last year's machine are aware of the reasons they were so successful, so there is plenty of incentive to stick with what worked.

With multi-dimensional threats added to the mix, we might even see a more dynamic attack, capable of punishing teams that stay home on shooters and challenge the Knicks to beat them with penetration.