I don’t really want to mention Linsanity at this point, but it’s kind of hard not to when I’m going to talk about Raymond Felton’s 2012-13 season. If you remember, this time last year we were wondering how the Knicks were going to develop Jeremy Lin, their unquestioned point guard of the present and future. If I would have told you on June 11, 2012 that Lin would be a Rocket, the Knicks would bring back Felton and go on to win 54 games, the Atlantic Division, etc. in 2013, you probably would have, like, not agreed with me.
And since Felton was the main cog in the trade that made it apparent that Lin was not returning, and since they play the same position, there’s always going to be a connection between the two, even if it gets weaker as the Linsanity Era gets smaller in the rear view mirror. The early returns are that the Knicks made a good deal (if we’re treating Felton replacing Lin as a “deal”, even though it wasn’t). Felton had a very good season and was one of the only Knicks who raised his level for the better part of the playoffs.
The numbers: 30.4 mpg, 13.9 ppg, 5.5 apg, 2.3 tov (turnovers), 2.9 rpg, 15.2 PER
Statistically, Felton had a pretty strong season. The 15.2 PER ties for the second-highest of his career (trailing only the 16.2 he posted in 2009-10), and he posted the third-highest true shooting percentage, effective field goal percentage and second-highest 3-point percentages of his career. In short, Felton shot the ball well. Along with Pablo Prigioni and Jason Kidd, Felton was part of a three point guard rotation that was the best in the NBA at taking care of the ball. He committed just 2.3 turnovers in over 30 minutes a night, a very solid number for a guy who had the ball in his hands quite a bit.
And then we get to the stat that means it all: wins! Felton was hampered by a few injuries, thus only playing in 68 games. In those games, the Knicks went 47-21, which means that without him the Knicks went 7-7. The term “X-Factor”, while being a silly and sort of contrived moniker, was fairly appropriate for Felton’s ’12-’13 season. When he played (and played well), the Knicks were pretty tough to beat.
Best moment: December 6 at Miami, one of those games that brought Knicks fans a rare form of rational early-season euphoria. The Knicks, having already handed out a thrashing to the defending champion Heat on opening night, traveled to South Beach without the services of Carmelo Anthony. Kurt Thomas and Ronnie Brewer were both in the starting lineup. James White nearly played 17 minutes. Steve Novak played almost 35. And the Knicks won 112-92. How the hell? Largely because of Felton, who had 27 points on 10-of-20 and 6-of-10 from deep, dishing out seven assists and finishing a +19. It was Felton’s barrage of third quarter 3s that really blew the game wide open, giving the Knicks one of their signature victories of the year.
Lowest moment: As per usual while reviewing the 2012-13 Knicks, the postseason. As I mentioned earlier, though, Felton did have some very good moments in the playoffs, especially early on. He was quite often referred to as the Knicks’ best player in the first round against Boston, as the Rajon Rondo-less Celtics struggled to keep Felton out of the paint. The second round against the Pacers was another story.
Felton couldn’t quite navigate around the size of George Hill, and was one of the many Knick guards who double-teamed the post like a robot instead of using actual logic. In the final four games of the series, Felton averaged 8.3 points while shooting 14-of-45 (31%). During the season, and early in the playoffs for that matter, Felton was a pretty reliable third scoring option behind Melo and J.R. Smith. With Smith going into a tailspin against the Pacers, the Knicks really needed Felton to be better than he was over the final few games of the series. Certainly credit the Pacers’ defense, which made life tough for every Knick, but Felton’s semi-disappearance came at a crucial time.
All in all: After coming off a disastrous season with Portland, there were some very viable concerns surrounding Felton’s return to the Knicks. I’d like to think that most people believe he had a better year than we could have expected. For a good while, he was half of one of the league’s deadliest pick and roll-to lob tandems with Tyson Chandler, he was a reliable scoring option, took care of the ball, shot well from deep. Did he tail off a bit at times, especially during the final games of the disappointing end to the season? What Knick didn’t?
With Felton, you know what you’re getting. You may not agree with how the Knicks have decided to build their team, around Carmelo Anthony (and you wouldn’t be in the minority). But since the Knicks are here and have done that, Felton is a viable enough point guard.
Unless the Knicks nab a point guard in the draft who turns out to be a crazy steal, Felton is going to be your starter next season. And probably the one after that, too. If he can replicate this past season’s performance, you take that and run with it.