After a surprising 8-6 start to the season, the New York Knicks have suddenly gone cold.
Following a 106-85 blowout loss to the Utah Jazz Wednesday night, the Knicks have now lost seven of their last nine, with their only two wins coming against the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets — two of the worst teams in the NBA.
And while there continues to be optimism and excitement around Kristaps Porzingis, one of the Knicks’ other young, promising players has hit a big slump that’s hurting the team.
Despite the hype around Porzingis at the beginning of the season, second-year guard Langston Galloway was one of the Knicks’ best player early in the season. Galloway was an undrafted call-up from the D-League last season, and looked to be improving on an impressive first year.
His personal stats weren’t mind-blowing, but they showed a solid, steady, highly efficient guard. Through the Knicks’ first 14 games of the season, Galloway was averaging over 10 points per game on 47% shooting, 55% from three (best in the NBA), over four rebounds, two assists, and a steal per game. Furthermore, Galloway was fifth on the Knicks in on-court net rating, with 3.4, meaning the Knicks were outscoring opponents with him on the floor, and he had played more minutes than anyone above him.
During that same stretch, lineups with Galloway continually thrived, whether he was with starters or other bench players. Galloway was in five of the Knicks’ six lineups that had played 10 or more minutes on the year and had positive net ratings. With Galloway on the floor, the Knicks shot and defended better while forcing opponents to turn the ball over more frequently.
In the last nine games, however, Galloway has hit a wall, and the Knicks are struggling big time, falling to 10-13 on the season. During that stretch, Galloway has averaged just four points per game on 21% shooting, 20% from three. During this nine-game stretch, the Knicks’ offensive rating is a putrid 89 with Galloway on the floor, and he has a -14.1 net rating — worst on the team.
This is essentially a 180-degree turn from where Galloway was at the start of the season. Part of this could be fatigue. Galloway hasn’t even played a full season yet, so in essence, he’s still a rookie. Despite the long offseason, the adjustment of the wear-and-tear of the NBA season may be catching up to him.
Similarly, this season, Galloway has ran the fourth-longest distance on the Knicks, according to the NBA’s player tracking. He has run more miles than any bench player on the team, and he averages the highest average speed of any consistent rotation player on the Knicks.
While a team struggling while one of its best players struggles isn’t exactly ground-breaking, it’s clear that Galloway has a big impact on the Knicks’ success. At his early-season peak, he was a high-energy combo guard that could harass opposing ball-handlers and spread the floor. That’s an in-demand skill in the NBA, and with a dearth of players who can both defend and hit three-pointers on the Knicks, Galloway’s slump coinciding with the Knicks’ doesn’t seem like an accident.
In an improved Eastern Conference, the Knicks have little room to slip. While in recent years, a below-.500 team could sneak into the playoffs, that doesn’t look like the case this year. On the brink of a road trip, the next few games could be crucial for the Knicks to avoid slipping too much in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
With virtually nobody on the Knicks capable of replacing Galloway’s production or skill set, having Galloway find his footing could be crucial to the Knicks’ chances of keeping up what looked like a promising season.
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