New York Knicks' Three-Point Dependence Will Deter Path to Playoff Success

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New York Knicks' Three-Point Dependence Will Deter Path to Playoff Success
Nick Laham/Getty Images

New York's sloppy 106-96 loss on Sunday to the Philadelphia 76ers, sans Andre Iguodala, was a sobering reminder that the team is still mired in mediocrity. 

The Knicks' 3-for-19 three-point shooting performance against the woeful Sixers stands as the perfect symbol for this season. When the Knicks are cold from beyond the arc, they skitter to a halt, which was eminently noticeable during a five-minute stretch in the fourth quarter where they scored just two points.

When the Knicks are scorching hot from long distance, they can beat any team in the NBA on any given night, as they did against a better Chicago Bulls team on the road last week.

These are your 2010-11 New York Knicks, destined for 35-to-45 wins and a low seed in the playoffs, exact win total and playoff position ultimately dependent upon health, luck and possible deadline moves.

Can the Knicks extend that hot three-point shooting over a seven-game playoff series against the Heat, Celtics or Magic in the first round and emerge victorious? Probably not, and definitely not over the course of a multi-round playoff run.

Six games into the season may be too soon to jump to conclusions, but the Knicks are showing signs that they will not break free from their mediocre malaise due to an offensive system that the team's best player, Amar'e Stoudemire, isn't really meshing well with right now. Instead, Mike D'Antoni's system is catering to a large group of hot-and-cold outside shooters that love to chuck it from the cheap seats.

The Knicks have attempted 151 three-pointers in their first six games—an average of roughly 25 per contest—and made 54 for a 36 percent success rate. Take away the 16-for-24 shooting clinic against Chicago, however, and New York is left with a 38-for-127 shooting effort (29.9 percent). A maniacal 29.4 percent of the Knicks' field goals are three-point attempts this season, currently second in the NBA to Orlando.

Teams can find playoff success even if they shoot a Mount Everest avalanche of three-pointers as the Knicks do, but there are other mitigating circumstances.

Case in point, take the aforementioned Orlando Magic. They have elite center Dwight Howard, who clogs up the paint and subsequently frees up outside shooters. When the three-point shots aren't falling, Jameer Nelson can now go into Howard so he can unveil his new offensive prowess down low (23-plus points per game thus far).

The Magic can have success as a three-point shooting team because they have an elite center and play great team defense; the Knicks don't have an elite center, and while they are improving as a defensive unit, still need some work in that end.

As good as the Magic have been recently, they still have not won an NBA title, and no one is racing to pencil them in as NBA title winners within the next five years. No team in NBA history has won an NBA title depending upon the three-pointer as much as the Knicks have in recent years. In order for the Knicks to become a title contender, this philosophy needs to change first and foremost.

In order for the Knicks to curtail their number of three-pointers attempted and start developing as an Eastern Conference contender, Amar'e Stoudemire needs to put this team on his back. Is that even possible? Can the big man ever be the best player on a contending playoff team? I don't know, but thankfully Allen Kim has some good ideas as to what he needs to do to improve.

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