There is a growing sense around the league that the New York Knicks’ main goal this offseason is to sign upcoming free desk point guard Jalen Brunson. Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer stated on June 21 that the Knicks wanted to free up $25 million in cap space for the start of the free agency to pursue Brunson.
New York made significant strides toward achieving its goal during the NBA Draft. They were involved in a three-team trade with Detroit and Oklahoma City that allowed them to get rid of Kemba Walker and exit the first round.
They sent Walker’s $9.2 million salary to Detroit and Ousmane Dieng’s draft choice rights to Oklahoma for future choices. The trade allowed New York to open $13.7 million in cap space.
While New York did a great job cleaning up the cap space, they did it for all the wrong reasons. Brunson is a player who does most of his offensive damage as a pick and roll ball handler. He has spent 31.9 percent of his assets as a pick-and-roll-ball handler since 2018, averaging 3.6 per game since 2018. He has shot 50.8 percent of the field with 2.95 attempts per match. The field goal percentage helped him average 9 points per game.
The presence of RJ Barrett and Julius Randle would force the Knicks to use Jalen Brunson for most of the game, as Kemba Walker did last season.
Jalen Brunson would be an expensive Kemba Walker on New York Knicks
At first glance, the strength of Brunson’s skills seems to withstand the onslaught of the Knicks. New York was 7th in pick-and-roll possessions last season, averaging 21.5 per game. If you look below the surface, however, Brunson will have to push his pick-and-roll skills to the background when he joins New York.
The team likes to have three players behind the arc as they perform a pick-and-roll as spot-up/three-point shooters. For example, Barrett and Randle spent at least 20.7 percent of their assets, averaging a minimum of 4.9 per game over the past two seasons.
If New York makes Brunson the primary pick-and-roll-ball handler, Julius Randle and RJ Barrett will spend a significant portion of their assets on the spot-up roll.
Unfortunately, both players were inefficient in the role, shooting under 39.2 percent on a minimum of four tries per game. Their struggle would allow opponents to put multiple defenders on Brunson.
The Knicks will have to make him a spot-up shooter for the team to be effective, as Barrett and Randle are most efficient in the restricted area. Both players have shot more than 54 percent in the restricted area on at least four attempts since 2019.
Both players’ strengths and weaknesses were a factor that caused Walker to change his style of play when he joined the team. For last season, Walker spent 49.6 percent of his assets on pick and roll, an average of 10 per game. He shot 43 percent on 8.2 tries per game.
In New York, he scored just 6.1 per game, 50.6 percent of his possession. The decline in pick and roll caused Walker to spend most of his minutes off the ball. Walker spent 19.6 percent of his assets as a spot-up shooter averaging 2.4 per game, the second highest score in his career. Walker also took a career-high 53.8 percent of his shots from behind the arc at an average of 5.4 per game.
Walker had the skills to thrive in the role, as he shot more than 36 percent from behind the arc before his arrival in New York. He maintained his success from behind the arc, with the Knicks shooting 36 percent.
Brunson outperforms behind the arc, shooting 37.3 percent from behind the arc with 2.7 tries per game. Unfortunately, like Walker, Barrett and Randle’s presence will force him off the ball for most of the game.