Somewhere at the start of the year, the Knicks forward lost his range. Is this a run-of-the-mill shooting slump, or legitimate cause for concern?
In a season that has been somewhat up and down for the Knicks sophomore, there was always two things you could consistently count on Kristaps Porzingis bringing to each match: elite rim protection, and a Dirk-tier degree of shooting range for a 7-footer. In the month of November 2016 we all cheered as KP averaged more than 20 points per game for the first time, and the coming-out party he had against the Pistons where he went for 35 (scoring 30+ for the first time in a game) only validated the casual fan's belief that KP, not Carmelo Anthony, should be the first scoring option in New York.
Then came January, and his scoring dwindled to 13.9 ppg after having to sit out a number of games due to injury. It was okay though, his rim defense was still there, and on the offensive end KP could still confound defenders from mid-range, shooting a godly 68% during the month of January.
What was not okay though, and hasn't really been the same since, is Porzingis' three-point shooting. Again, it was always one of the things you could depend on from him; even in his rookie season when most of KP's offense came from putback dunks and threes, he shot a respectable 33% from beyond the arc. In the month of January 2017 for example, he converted less than 30% of his shots from downtown.
That shooting decline has continued into the present day, where for the month of March he shot a measly 27% from three. I get that playoffs are completely out of reach for New York and the rest of the season is essentially a race to the bottom for a high draft pick, but how concerned should we be over our future franchise player's current shooting woes?
Part of it is understanding that basketball players, especially ones who are most impactful through offense, will have peaks and troughs not only from season to season, but from month to month. Let's take Golden State for example, a team synonymous with living and dying (mostly living) by their shooting. Steph Curry earned his second MVP with them in 2016 mostly through his herculean contribution of 30.1 points per game, a scoring effort he has not been able to come close to replicating before or since. Sure, the addition of Kevin Durant to the team certainly takes scoring opportunities away from Curry, but it's just as fathomable to think of his 2016 output as the result of an unbelievable hot streak.
Now in the present day, and all Golden State pundits can do is pull their hair out over the Splash Brothers recent shooting slumps. Has Steph Curry unimaginably and inexplicably bottomed-out after a historic 2016 season? Probably not. Will he find his form again in time for the playoffs? More than likely. Is the hysteria over Curry's shooting decline more the result of regression to the mean rather than any personal issue facing Steph? Absolutely.
I think the same logic should be followed on Porzingis' recent shooting woes. Rather than interpreting it as a sign that he isn't 100%, it makes more statistical sense to acknowledge that his blazing-hot start to the year (shot 44% from three in October 2016) wasn't going to last, and his recent dip is the universe trying to balance itself out.
As long as James Dolan is still in charge and Carmelo Anthony continues to slam the brakes on ball movement, Knicks fans will perpetually fret and gripe over their chosen franchise. KP is still the best thing to have happened to New York in almost a decade, and his 2017 3-point drought should probably be the least of their concerns.