Perimeter spacing has been a concern with the Knicks over the past few years. Last season, they were 27th in three-point percentage (33.7) and second to last in percentage of shot attempts that came from behind the three-point line.
Bringing back a similar core this season, three-point shooting remained a major question mark. Playing a traditional center such as Mitchell Robinson or Nerlens Noel and a limited outside threat at point guard in Elfrid Payton has only increased the need for shooting on the wing.
Veteran Reggie Bullock has stepped up over the last couple of months to provide that boost. Though he shot just 2-for-8 from long distance in the Knicks’ win against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday, Bullock is shooting 39.8 percent from three on 259 attempts this season.
Currently sitting at eighth overall in the NBA in three-point shooting (37.8 percent), the Knicks have risen up those charts faster than a song from Cardi B. Players like Julius Randle and RJ Barrett have surprised with their three-point shooting, allowing the Knicks to make a huge leap. Bullock’s growing consistency has also been a huge factor.
A free agent acquisition by the Knicks in the 2019 offseason, Bullock initially struggled from outside. Last season, Bullock missed time due to cervical disk herniation surgery and when he returned, he shot just 33.3 percent from three on 111 attempts.
He got off to a rough start this season, shooting just 34.8 percent in his first 15 games. Calls for alternatives to start at the small forward spot, like Alec Burks, grew louder early on.
Bullock stays within himself on the court, he often sticks to catching and shooting, and he’s stepped up as the season has progressed. Since the All-Star Break, Bullock is averaging 12.1 points and shooting 43.2 percent from the three-point line.
Bullock has built a great chemistry with Randle. The Knicks’ All-Star forward has flourished this year and the opposition has noticed. Teams are double-teaming and strategizing ways to take Randle out of his comfort zones. That’s where Bullock has helped in some respects with his laser-quick release.
Bullock is able to get off threes in bunches and he keeps the defense honest when they load up on Randle. 143 of Bullock’s 259 attempts have come off passes from Randle, according to the NBA Stats Page.
As the Knicks face tougher competition with a difficult late-season schedule, Bullock’s contributions will be important. He’s arguably the team’s best perimeter defender, and their best pure shooter. It would be great to see Bullock spring free and attempt more threes. His shooting ability can open up the court for his teammates. The Knicks are 16-9 when Bullock hoists at least five threes during a game.
Even if he doesn’t close games — like Friday night when Burks stepped into Bullock’s spot and made several clutch shots in a comeback win against the Memphis Grizzlies — Bullock’s role as a low-usage three-point shooter and release valve in New York’s offense complements the Knicks’ high-usage scorers well.
Bullock’s improved play does bring up a question for the Knicks that will be looming in the offseason. Should they re-sign the wing?
Bullock’s two-year, $8.1 million deal expires after the season. With his current stretch of shooting, there’s a chance that he could get more on the market as a 3-and-D wing. Several teams could use a two-way player like Bullock who can help on both sides of the floor.
As the free agent market naturally thins out, and multiple teams have heaps of salary cap space, Bullock could fit into a bunch of situations. Bullock rarely puts the ball on the floor and seldomly is able to create his own shot or shots for his teammates. Still, he doesn’t need the ball to provide spacing and shooting that could help out a team.
Bullock’s skill as a shooter is a weapon for the Knicks, and he’s likely to get an annual increase in salary this offseason. The question is how far the Knicks are willing to go to keep him.
New York will have a sizable amount of cap room to sign Bullock, but they have focused primarily on signing players to short-term deals that provide flexibility for the team to pursue a potential superstar level player who becomes available.
Regardless, Bullock’s improved play should help the Knicks as they look to make their late-season playoff push, and it should help him in the free agent market.