Before the season started, I wrote on here that I believed Ronnie Brewer would be the Knicks best off-season acquisition. I was wrong. That distinction goes to Jason Kidd, who has impacted this team in more ways than what can be measured in a box score. However, Brewer has performed incredibly well in his first 16 games as a Knick. He has started all 16 games this season, starting at both small forward and shooting guard. Brought in as a defensive stalwart, Brewer has been very solid on that end of the floor as expected. Suprisingly, his impact has mostly been felt on the offensive end of the floor.
A career 26% three point shooter, Brewer was not thought of as a guy who would contribute much on the offensive side of things. He was brought in as a defender who would bring a defensive balance alongside more offense oriented players like Carmelo Anthony, Raymond Felton and JR Smith. To the surprise of everybody, including Brewer himself probably, he has been much more than that.
New York has been the second best three point shooting team in the league, hitting 41.8% as a team. With the help of shooting coach Dave Hopla, often referred to as ‘Hopla the god’ in the world of Knicks twitter, Brewer has been one of the better three point shooters in the league through the first month of the season. Nobody is going to mistaken him for Steve Novak, but Brewer’s three point shooting has been very productive. He has taken 36 threes and has hit 15 of them, hitting at a 41.7% clip. Now conventional wisdom would indicate that Brewer is in line for a regression. There is no way he shoots 41.7% from downtown for the rest of the season, especially as a 26% career three point shooter, but the regression may not be as extreme as one would believe. Let me explain.
Of Brewer’s 15 made threes, 14 of them have come from the corner three spot of the floor. Of Brewer’s 36 three point shots, 32 of them have come from the corners. What does this mean? With the help of Hopla, Brewer clearly is most comfortable shooting threes from the corners. Having shot just 32 of these corner threes in the first 16 games, or 2 per game for those who aren’t so good at the maths, Brewer is the anti-2011 JR Smith. Instead of throwing up a bunch of isolation or contested step back threes, Brewer knows his role. He is a floor spacer, not a shot creator. 33 of his 35 three point attempts have come as spot up looks and 14 of his 15 makes have been off spot ups. What these numbers tell us is that Brewer is selective in his three point shooting. Unless the shot clock is running down, Brewer isn’t going to force up contested threes. If you go back and look at his shots, most of them are coming off wide open looks. He has excelled when the Knicks run pick and roll sets. Brewer’s man often crashes down in help defense, leaving Brewer wide open in the corner. The point guards have done a really good job to get Brewer the ball and he has made opposing defenses pay for leaving him open. Looking ahead to the rest of the season, there really is no reason to believe that Brewer won’t continue to get these open looks. His shooting will probably regress slightly, but even a regression down to 36 or 37% shooting from three will still make Brewer an effective offensive floor spacer for the Knicks.
Players who can score without the ball are always valuable to offenses. In addition to his three point shooting, Brewer has also excelled as a cutter this season. While his three point shooting has been great, Brewer’s ability to find space moving off the ball may the be most impressive part of his offensive game. Averaging 1 point per possession as a cutter, according to Synergy sports, Brewer has been quite efficient when getting the ball on cuts. Brewer has gotten 20 shot attempts off cuts, hitting 11 of them. Impressively, Brewer finds his way into the teeth of the defense without plays being run for him. I can’t recall one time the Knicks have run a play to get Brewer the ball as a cutter. What he does is capitalize on sleeping defenders. Him and Carmelo Anthony seem to have developed a really nice rapport. Many of Brewer’s looks as a cutter have come when Anthony draws the attention of the defense. Brewer’s defender often focuses on Anthony, usually on one of the elbows, and allows Brewer to sneak behind him to get to the rack. The Knick wing is also good at cutting in pick and roll sets. Not only can he capitalize on collapsing help defenders by hitting open threes, but he has a knack of knowing when to cut to the hoop instead of standing beyond the arc. Again, New York’s point guards have done a good job of getting Brewer the ball in those situations. Though the sample size of this early season is somewhat limited, 20 shot attempts as a cutter in 16 games played, it is quite clear that Brewer understands floor spacing and how to hurt defenses without the ball in his hands.
Ronnie Brewer has been a fantastic role player for this Knicks team. He has done what the team has asked of him and he has done it very well. Brewer spaces the floor and makes opposing teams hurt when they leave him wide open, shooting 41.7% from downtown. Very rarely ever having the ball in his hands, he has excelled in getting open looks at the rim by moving off the ball. Brewer’s defense has been solid and there have been no off the court hiccups either. Whether he plays 14 minutes or 32 minutes in a game, Brewer plays hard every night. He knows his limits and he knows his role. Ronnie Brewer has been one of the unsung heroes behind the early season success of the 12-4 New York Knicks. I’ve been incredibly impressed with him in these first 16 games and there is no reason why he cannot continue to do the things he has been doing.
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