Can Raymond Felton Thrive with New York Knicks Without Mike D'Antoni?
New York Knicks general manager Glen Grunwald took a big risk this offseason in letting breakout point guard Jeremy Lin sign with the Houston Rockets and instead opting to go with Raymond Felton as the team's starter at the point for the 2012-2103 campaign.
Felton played half a season in New York in 2010-2011, averaging 17.1 points and nine assists per game in then-coach Mike D'Antoni's fast-paced offense before being traded to the Denver Nuggets as part of the Carmelo Anthony deal.
D'Antoni's run-and-gun system has been replaced with Mike Woodson's isolation game, and if fans are expecting a repeat of Felton's first stint in New York, they're setting themselves up for disappointment.
Besides the change in coaches and coaching style, Felton already comes with some question marks.
He's coming off of the worst season of his career, in which he averaged 11.4 points (a career low) and 6.5 assists per game while shooting a below-average 30 percent from long range.
Even worse, after the Knicks signed him this summer, he admitted that he was out of shape for all of last season, thus explaining why he struggled and constantly looked sluggish on the floor. Given how Woodson's approach calls for tough defense from every player, this is a potential red flag.
On top of that, it should be noted that the reason Felton played so well under D'Antoni is that a fast-paced system that relies heavily on the pick-and-roll is one in which any point guard can put up ridiculously good numbers.
I'm not saying that Steve Nash is a bad point guard, but his passing numbers didn't shoot up until he went to go play for D'Antoni in Phoenix. The same can be said for why Lin was so good during the Linsanity phase that took New York City by storm.
Thus, while Felton is talented in his own right, it's hard to believe that he can put up similar numbers playing for Woodson.
However, while some may criticize the former North Carolina Tar Heel, his overall career dictates that he'll be just fine without Mike D'Antoni has his coach.
You see, Woodson's offensive system is simple for a point guard to understand: get the ball to the stars, score when necessary and play tough defense on the other side of the floor.
Now, some are probably thinking that there's no way Felton can thrive in an isolation game. His approach to the game is one where he prefers to shoot from long range, so how can he suddenly turn into a consistent contributor in a defensive system?
Well, ladies and gentlemen, though his overall game may seem one-sided, there is more to Raymond Felton than meets the eye. Currently, he has averaged 13.4 points, 6.7 assists and 1.4 steals per game. As a whole, those numbers aren't bad by any means.
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Just for the sake of argument, take out his numbers for the 2010-2011 season. His averages are now 13 points, 6.5 assists and 1.4 steals per contest. There isn't much of a change, so it's hard to say that Felton isn't a point guard cut out for distribution and defense.
Mike D'Antoni's fast-paced offense doesn't make certain players better. It just enhances statistics and provides a type of game that the fans love to watch. If it truly does make players better, then how come D'Antoni hasn't yet won a championship?
Can Raymond Felton do well outside of Mike D'Antoni's system?
Knicks fans have nothing to worry about.
Felton will do just fine playing for Mike Woodson, and the fans will welcome him back with open arms. This time around, his job is to just get the ball to Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire or whoever the top scoring threat on the floor happens to be at the time.
As long as he knows his role, he could very well become one of the steals of the offseason and help New York go far.
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