evan fournier knicks
Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Evan Fournier’s ability to run off screens can give the New York Knicks a different dynamic on offense in 2021-22.

Danny Small

When the New York Knicks signed Evan Fournier, the critics asked why? Why pay more for a guy who was going to be filling the same role as Reggie Bullock? Not so fast — Fournier can be a massive upgrade for the Knicks if they use him correctly.

To be clear, the Knicks needed to make tweaks to this roster. Despite finishing fourth in the Eastern Conference, offense was a struggle for the orange and blue. They ranked 22nd in offensive rating (110.2) and their limitations were on full display during a first-round beatdown in the playoffs.

Sure, the defense was the reason for New York’s success and Bullock was a big part of that, but Fournier is not the defensive downgrade people think he is. What Fournier brings to the table on offense will outweigh any defensive downgrade.

Let’s take a closer look at the 2020-21 Knicks’ offense and how Fournier can help fill any holes.

Knicks 2020-21 Offense by Playtype

Playtype Frequency PPP Percentile
Transition 11.90% 1.11 50.9
Iso 8.50% 0.92 55.2
PnR BH 22.30% 0.88 41.4
PnR RM 5.10% 1.12 44.8
Post Up 4.80% 0.97 58.6
Spot Up 24.60% 1.06 69
Handoff 4.30% 0.96 55.2
Cut 5.60% 1.15 0
Off Screen 2.90% 0.96 3.4
Putbacks 5.30% 1.09 13.8
Misc 4.70% 0.65 93.1

 

The Knicks ranked above the 70th percentile in just one playtype category last season according to NBA.com — miscellaneous.

New York’s most consistent form of offense came from spot-up shooting. Bullock, Julius Randle, and RJ Barrett shined as spot-up shooters last year, but they found most of their success on stationary catch-and-shoot opportunities.

The Knicks were still lacking a shooter who could be dangerous off of screens. Enter Evan Fournier.

Evan Fournier 2020-21 Off Screens & Spot Ups

Playtype Frequency PPP Percentile
Off Screen (ORL) 17.00% 0.99 52.9
Off Screen (BOS) 10.20% 1.3 89.4
———————— ——————— ——————— ———————
Bullock Off Screen 10.00% 0.98 52.4
———————— ——————— ——————— ———————
Spot Up (ORL) 15.70% 1.08 65.5
Spot Up (BOS) 28.40% 1.38 98
———————— ——————— ——————— ———————
Bullock Spot Up 40.50% 1.14 77.4

 

Fournier’s offensive efficiency by playtype is broken down into two sections — Off Screen and Spot Up. Although he played more games for the Magic last season, his numbers with the Celtics are closer to how he will be used in New York. We included Bullock’s numbers as a reference point as well.

The Frenchman was one of the most efficient guys off of screens during his 16-game stint with the Celtics. Although Bullock was effective as a spot-up shooter, he was decidedly average off of screens.

But why is spot-up shooting less important than off-screen shooting? It’s all about gravity. Good spot-up shooters will keep defenders from sagging too far into help-side defense, but they are typically more stationary.

Shooters who can run off staggered screens and floppy sets do more than just attract attention. Defenders need to stay attached to guys who can knock down shots on the move. Think of guys like Joe Harris and Duncan Robinson, who are constantly being chased on the perimeter.

The ultimate example of this type of gravity is Steph Curry. Think of how often we see Draymond Green throw a no-look pass to a wide-open guy underneath the hoop because two defenders show at Curry off of the screen.

Now, let’s be clear, Fournier is not as deadly from beyond the arc as Harris and Robinson, let alone Curry, but he can be a unique threat for the Knicks.

And unlike Bullock, if Fournier catches off of a screen with no room to shoot, he is more than comfortable at handling the rock. Catches off of screens can easily flow into pick-and-rolls and isolations for Fournier.

There are plenty of folks who scratched their heads when the Knicks handed Fournier a four-year, $73 million deal this offseason. However, his unique offensive abilities are going to help unlock Randle, Barrett, and the rest of the Knicks.

And if you are still worried about the defensive dropoff from Bullock to Fournier, ask yourself this? Was Bullock considered a lockdown defender before he played for Tom Thibodeau? No.

There’s a strong chance that the Thibs touch helps bring out the most in Fournier on the defensive end as well.