To help carry us through the quiet days of September in the NBA calendar, Aaron Jacobs is going to individually break down the New York Knicks roster and look at where each player fits comparatively to their peers in the NBA. He starts today with Point Guard, Raymond Felton.
A point guard is essentially supposed to run a team’s offense, making sure the right players get the ball in the best position to score; in layman’s terms the point guard is the quarterback on the basketball court. A point guard should be quick, decisive, have great passing ability and most importantly be a leader. All that being said, where does New York Knicks point guard Raymond Felton stack up among today’s point guards in the NBA?
Felton has played some of his best games in a Knicks uniform, but let’s face it, last year was a mediocre year for Felton. He averaged 13.9 points, 5.5 assists 2.9 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game in the 2012-2013 season. Compared to his 2010-2011 stint with the Knicks, which was Felton’s best professional season, when he averaged 15.5 points and 8.6 assists per game. Clearly the team was different then, it was all about Felton and Amare Stoudemire running the pick-and-roll in Mike D’Antoni’s offense.
We all know how that story played out. Felton was traded for Carmelo Anthony, along with the rest of the Knicks roster, and after meaningless years in Denver and Portland he found his way back to New York as a free agent last season. Felton didn’t come back to the same Knicks team, a whole new coaching staff and newcomers like Tyson Chandler, Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith, not to mention a new supporting cast were now wearing orange and blue.
Obviously with Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith in the picture Felton’s scoring was going to decrease. To an extent his decrease in numbers have a lot to do with the type of offense the Knicks play, which is a ton of isolation AKA one-on-one plays for Anthony and Smith. This style of play is effective for the most part, as the Knicks ranked among the league leaders in scoring during isolation type plays in the regular season. However, Raymond Felton has become a crafty pick-and-roll point guard with his ability to finish at the rim or lob passes to multiple teammates, specifically Tyson Chandler more frequently.
On the offensive end Felton is a good fit for the Knicks. He doesn’t shy away from contact and is adept at forcing his way into the lane. He is also a threat from long range. The comparison I hear most of Felton is a pit bull, that’s a spot on assessment. He’s a rough and rugged point guard who isn’t afraid of the big stage or taking the big shot.
The Knicks are at their best when there is a healthy balance of isolation and pick-and-roll. Felton needs to be relied upon more to lead this offense, he was very effective in the playoffs last year against the Celtics, who were one of the better pick-and-roll defensive teams in the NBA. However, it’s not all about Felton either. Too often the Knicks play “Melo-Ball” where everyone else just stands around waiting for Carmelo Anthony to make his move. If the rest of the team would move around and run some backdoor cuts it would give ‘Melo the option to shoot or hit the open man inside for easy buckets.
The problem with the Knicks defensively is switching. It’s unfair to ask the 6’1″ Felton to defend the opposing teams shooting guard or in rare instances small forward. We all watched the playoffs and how often were we screaming “Why is Felton defending Paul Pierce?!” Coach Woodson needs to adjust his defense to stop switching so frequently which leads his players to be beaten defensively. However, it’s not all about the switching.
Frequently last season the Knicks were burned by opposing point guards who were quicker than Felton and slipped right by him in the pick-and-roll. Remember when Stephen Curry dropped 54 points? Or how about when Damian Lillard dropped 26 points and 10 assists? Those games are evidence of Felton’s biggest flaw in my opinion, which is his inability to slip under or over the top of screens and stay with opposing point guards. That’s one area where Felton must try to improve, losing 15 pounds the off-season, allegedly, should help out.
Most websites rank Raymond Felton as a mid-level NBA starter, which is a fair assessment, but is not completely his fault. With so many bigger, stronger, faster and more athletic point guards in the NBA, it would be hard to put him among the best. His ‘grit & grind’ style of play just makes him a perfect fit for this city and this team. Felton needs to take control of this offense and be more of a vocal leader, after all he is the point guard. Hopefully he can stay healthy and continue meshing with Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Iman Shumpert and others to build better continuity on offense.