We've already seen Ray Felton shine with one superstar in New York. How about with Melo?
Now, the man who was traded away for Carmelo Anthony is back at Madison Square Garden and will be passing the ball to him. Knicks fans should rejoice at this development, and so should Melo.
Felton is projected to be the starting point guard for 2012-13. He showed excellent chemistry with Amar'e Stoudemire at the start of the 2010-11 season. In 54 games with the Knicks, Felton averaged 17.1 points and 9.0 assists in 38.4 minutes—all career highs.
Felton has never played a full season with a premier scorer like Anthony. The closest he came was in the 2007-08 season in Charlotte with Jason Richardson. Not to denigrate Richardson, but he couldn't carry Carmelo Anthony's gym bag.
It will be interesting to see how Felton and Melo jell, and whether Felton and STAT will be able to rekindle their potent chemistry together. But his arrival in New York is a welcome development, especially for Anthony.
Let's take a look back at Melo's most recent point guard relationship and consider how Felton will be able to change that. Much was made last year of the chemistry between Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin and Carmelo, their marquee player.
Essentially, they had no chemistry.
Lin's style—dribble right, penetrate the lane, kick out to the open man or take the shot—seemed anathema to Melo's preference for isolation play. Jeremy Lin broke out for 25 points off the bench against the New Jersey Nets on February 4.
The Knicks won seven straight games. And Carmelo Anthony sustained an injury in the Knicks' next game, a 99-88 win over the Utah Jazz on February 6. Melo missed the next seven games and Lin led the team to a 6-1 record without their superstar. This is when Linsanity swept across the globe.
As the Knicks succeeded without their "best" player, much was made in the interim of whether or not Melo's isolation game could work with the new sensation at the point (h/t Grantland.com). Despite some players dismissing the notion that Anthony's style was selfish (Tyson Chandler called it "completely nonsense" when asked by Mike Mazzeo of ESPN New York), there seemed to be some evidence for it on the court.
When Anthony returned on February 20 against the Nets, he played 37 minutes but managed just 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting. Deron Williams exacted revenge on Lin and the Knicks for the embarrassment he suffered on February 4, dropping 38 points and leading the Nets to a 100-92 victory at MSG.
The Knicks dropped eight of their next 10 games, including a 95-85 loss to the Dallas Mavericks where Melo suffered through one of the worst games of his career, managing just six points on 2-of-12 shooting in 31 minutes. By March 14, just three weeks after Melo's return, Mike D'Antoni was no longer coaching the team.
After seven games under new head coach Mike Woodson, Lin sustained a knee injury on March 24 that ended his season. Melo didn't score more than 17 points in any of those seven games. Once Lin was out for the year, and with ailing veteran Baron Davis at the point, Melo played his best basketball and averaged 29.1 points over his next 16 games.
Will Raymond Felton be good for Carmelo Anthony?
While Stoudemire was also out for 13 of those 16 games, it was clear that a veteran point guard was better able to execute Woodson's offense. His main philosophy? Get the ball in the hands of the scorers where they can do their damage.
Say what you will about the Knicks failing to match the Rockets' offer sheet for Lin, but for the sake of Carmelo Anthony, it's a good thing he's gone. The Knicks now have a completely new trio at the point in Felton, future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd and 35-year-old Argentinian rookie Pablo Prigioni.
Felton will start at the point, and the Knicks have made it abundantly clear that this is Melo's team. Felton's no fool. He will be getting Melo the ball just where he wants it while also running the offense, and it will be to their mutual benefit.
Felton suffered through a disappointing season on a poor Portland team last year. The elite scorers in New York are a welcome change of pace.
Felton's agent, Tony Dutt, conceded that his client showed up overweight to training camp last season. Speaking to Nate Taylor of the New York Times, Dutt acknowledged that the weight was related to "the uncertainty produced by last year’s lockout, which delayed the season for nearly two months and left players wondering when, and if, they would get back on the court."
Felton appears to have slimmed down in preparation for this season, and he sounds excited to be back in New York, both looking forward to working with Kidd and determined to succeed with Anthony and Stoudemire.
When interviewed by HOOPSWORLD at the 2012 Las Vegas Summer League, he was asked how he would use his veteran experience to help the chemistry between Melo and Stoudemire. He responded:
I bring a guy that's a dog, a guy that's, you know, that's not afraid of neither one of them. A guy that, you know, if they get mad or get upset, I'm able to sit there and tame that. Let those guys know that, look, I'm a get y'all the ball, I'm a run this team, you know, y'all gonna get your shots.
As noted by Ernest Tolden of ESPN New York, the Knicks got away from running the pick-and-roll with Jeremy Lin at the point. Felton will remedy that, restoring his chemistry with Amar'e as well as Tyson Chandler (his teammate on the Charlotte Bobcats in 2009-10). Stoudemire also appeared to be finding his form late last season (as observed by ESPN New York's Ian O'Connor) and will look to have a strong 2012-13.
MSG's Alan Hahn spoke with Woodson about Stoudemire's offseason work with Hakeem Olajuwon to develop his low-post game. Woodson told him, "I can't help but think he's going to be much better when we come back next season" (from Sulia.com via Twitter).
How does this help Carmelo Anthony? It diversifies his isolation game.
Another solid post-up option in the starting five will prevent defenses from keying on Melo and making the offense one-dimensional. This gives the Knicks options in both the high post and low post, in addition to two bigs who can screen and run pick-and-rolls.
If Stoudemire can play with his back to the basket, opponents will have to come up with a more diverse gameplan than simply to front the high post and deny Melo the ball, as the Heat did so successfully.
There is a time to every purpose. A time for isolation, a time for penetration, a time for screen-roll, a time for high-low.
With a pair of seasoned NBA point guards, the scorers can rest assured that they will get their turns. They can also put their trust in the decision-making of two veterans that have 25 years of NBA experience under their belts.
This is why it's also important to start defensive specialist Ronnie Brewer at shooting guard and have J.R. Smith come off the bench. The lion's share of offensive looks for the starting five must go to Anthony and Stoudemire.
And Anthony will be happy to have the ball coming to him from an established point guard. While Melo can create his own offense, he needs a point guard that can threaten to do more than just drive the lane or dump the ball off to him in the high post.
In Denver, he had veterans in Andre Miller and then Chauncey Billups running the point. In New York, he has not yet had an experienced and consistent presence bringing up the ball.
Instead of the patchwork at the point from last season—Mike Bibby, Toney Douglas, Davis and Lin—Melo primarily will be playing with Felton, who has assured him: "I'm a run this team...y'all gonna get your shots."