The Value of Small Things

BY DAN

Everyone likes value for money but for the most part, Knicks fans haven’t seen a lot of it this year.

In fact, this season has been an abject failure for the New York Knicks. Fans like me have preached patience, and taken solace where we could. At best, players have met the value expected from their salaries, or underperformed for them (Andrea Bargnani I’m looking in your direction).

But one person that has brought unexpected solace for Knicks fans is in the play of Langston Galloway. The Knicks have won as many games (five!) in the dozen or so he has played as they did the previous 40 odd games. Even Carmelo has compared it to that special time in all Knicks fan’s lives, Linsanity.

Galloway: Linsanity Lite
Galloway: Linsanity Lite

And hasn’t he been valuable? The performance of the Knicks seems synchronous with Galloway’s performance. In wins, Galloway averages 15.6 points on 48 per cent shooting, 5.8 rebounds, 3.2 dimes and 1.2 steals. In losses, this dips to 8.3 points per game on 33 per cent shooting, 3.1 assists and 0.9 steals.[i]

The performance of Galloway has been all the more surprising given he wasn’t on the team’s roster to start the season. At the time this seemed entirely legitimate – Calderon was meant to start as the primary ball handler, playing beside Tim Hardaway, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith, supported by Shane Larkin and Pablo Prigioni off the bench. The trade of Shumpert of Smith, and the lack of improvement from Larkin, opened up a place for Galloway in the Knicks back court. Galloway’s success led to the Knicks inking him to a two year deal recently.

Galloway provides the Knicks with a ball handler on the perimeter capable of driving deep into the middle of the defence. He can do this by beating his own man off the dribble, or by running a pick and roll with a Knicks big (including also newly acquired Lance Thomas). Almost 21 per cent of his shots are from within three feet, which is higher this season than all New York guards except Shane Larkin. This provides the Knicks with ‘easier’ buckets than what comes from feeding ‘Melo in the pinch post, or from the variety of long jumpers that seem to result from the Knicks often unthreatening version of the triangle.

Whilst still relying on the long two more often than he should (over 25 per cent of his shots are 2s from greater than 16 feet), Galloway has proved himself a useful, if streaky, outside shooter, providing the Knicks with the additional outside shooting to create the spacing they haven’t achieved since the 2012-13 season. His assist/turnover ratio remains excellent – 3.2 assists for every turnover – providing the Knicks with able ball-handling outside of Calderon.

Galloway has protected the ball
Galloway has protected the ball

The success of the 2012-13 season is instructive here – because it was the last time the Knicks got consistent penetration from the ball handler – Ray Felton at the time. The pick and roll he ran with Chandler was often the catalyst for the perimeter ball movement and shooting that was a characteristic of that team. Like Galloway’s work today, it remains an important secondary option to Melo’s mid-range work in the triangle.

But as important as his actual play is his value for money. Galloway will only earn around 230K this season, and about 440k next year[ii]. His Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is 13.49, and sits behind only ‘Melo and the oft-injured frontcourt duo of Cole Aldrich and Amare for the Knicks. These players all earn substantially more than Galloway – as does everyone else on the Knicks roster. And in fact, you can see below that Galloway’s performance has proven to be excellent value for money when compared across the league.

Player Salary[iii] PER
OJ Mayo 5.6m 13.4
Ray Felton 3.7m 13.11
Grevis Vasquez 2.15m 13.02
Alec Burks 3.04m 13.04
Michael Carter-Williams 2.3m 12.9
Langston Galloway 220K 13.46

We should be wary of putting too much expectation on Galloway. His numbers aren’t excellent – they remarkably similar to Ray Felton’s season statistics from last year, a year in which Felton was widely considered the worst starting point guard in the league. His shooting is still streaky and needs to be improved – his 31 per cent from three must become more consistent. He still makes mistakes with the ball, and while an eager defender, can be beaten by smaller, quicker guards.

But it is undoubted that the Knicks are getting more than they paid for here. This situation is not something Knicks fans have been familiar with in recent years. But if the Knicks are to become a championship contender ever again, finding contributors that out perform their salaries will have to become the norm.

[i] Overall Langston has averaged 11.2 points on about 40 per cent shooting with 4.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists

[ii] Presuming he stays on the roster the whole season

[iii] All salaries taken from Google.

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