NBA Free Agency 2012: Are Knicks Making a Huge Mistake Letting Jeremy Lin Walk?

Ben Shapiro@benshapironyc1 Analyst IIIJuly 15, 2012

Rocket man? Jeremy Lin will reportedly end up in Houston.
Rocket man? Jeremy Lin will reportedly end up in Houston.Al Bello/Getty Images

The New York Knicks may not have provided NBA fans with the largest free agent acquisitions in terms of talent, but they seem determined to win the award for providing the most drama. 

Just three days after Knicks' coach Mike Woodson said that the Knicks would "absolutely" match the offer sheet Jeremy Lin had signed with the Houston Rockets, New York did an about-face and pulled off a sign-and-trade deal with the Portland Trail Blazers to acquire Raymond Felton.

Sunday Morning, Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears was reporting that the Knicks ultimately will not match the Rockets' offer sheet to Lin. That would bring an end to the very brief Jeremy Lin era in the Big Apple. The move might be unpopular, but it's the smart move. 

Jason Kidd may have been more than willing to toe the company line, when he was introduced as a new member of the Knicks. He said he was eager to mentor Jeremy Lin, even if it meant coming off the bench as Lin's backup.

That doesn't change the reality that Kidd has played in 1315 NBA games over his career, and started 1302 of them. With only 13 games as bench player over an 18-year career, Kidd hardly seems like an ideal backup to Lin.

With Felton on board and Lin out, the Knicks are not going to be under the same sort of pressure to start anyone in front of Kidd. Kidd might end up as a bench player, but it won't be pre-determined by the popularity of a teammate who was making a living in the D-League not too long ago.

Sample size had to be a factor in this decision for the Knicks. $25 million in guaranteed money to a player with only 25 career starts at point guard, and only seven playing under the current head coach, was simply far too much to commit.

Lin may develop into a very good NBA point guard, but would that be worth financially handicapping the entire team for the next three years? At over $14 million in the third and final year, Lin would be making more money in one season than in any of the three remaining seasons Rajon Rondo has on his current deal.

Felton is a wild card. He flourished while he was a member of the New York Knicks for the first half of the 2010-2011 season, averaging 17.1 points per game, 9.0 assists and only 3.3 turnovers. That was under Mike D'Antoni, purveyor of an offensive system that tends to boost the numbers of point guards.

Felton has struggled since leaving the Knicks. He was initially sent to the Denver Nuggets where he split time with Ty Lawson, before a three-team trade last summer landed him with the Portland Trail Blazers. In Portland, Felton clashed with head coach Nate McMillan, and the Blazers endured a disastrous season in which McMillan was fired, and the team began a total rebuilding process. 

Felton's career numbers, amassed over a total of 534 games and 478 starts are 13.4 points, 6.7 assists and 2.2 turnovers per game. Those are actually better than Lin's numbers in his paltry seven starts while current Knicks head coach Mike Woodson was in place.

In those seven starts Lin averaged 13.3 points, 5.4 assists, and 3.7 turnovers per game.

The Knicks will have chosen experience over potential, future roster flexibility over a maxed out salary cap, and veterans over youth. Felton and Kidd, both of whom are very bright and experienced, will be better fits on a Knicks team that wants to win now, and that is built around two players—Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire—who excel on offense, not on defense, and want to win now.

Is that the right choice? Only time will tell, but it certainly seems logical for now.