Training camp hasn't even begun yet, and New York Knicks coach Mike Woodson is already facing an extremely tough decision: Who should start at point guard on November 1 when the Knicks open the season against the Brooklyn Nets?
He has two fine options in future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd and dynamic combo guard Raymond Felton, but determining who starts is easier said than done. Each man brings his own unique skill set to the table and with New York's reversion to a defensive approach, who runs the point could prove to be essential.
That said, just who should Woodson choose?
Kidd's leadership skills are unquestionable and while he is no longer the triple-threat point guard he was in the prime of his career, he still has a knack for making clutch shots and finding the open man.
Felton has not been in the league for even a decade, but he has proven that he can hold his own in the passing department and his shooting skills aren't to be doubted, either. Yet, despite being young, is he really a better option in terms of the starting job?
Needless to say, each player has certain strengths and weaknesses that must be assessed before such a decision is made.
Were Mike D'Antoni still coaching the Knicks, this category would certainly hold a lot more water. Yet, in Woodson's isolation system, chances are that Kidd and Felton will do a lot more driving to the basket and drawing fouls and will only shoot three-pointers as necessary.
On numbers alone, it's hard to say who is better. Kidd has shot 35 percent from long range for his career, compared to Felton at 33. Yet, in terms of overall field goal percentage, Felton has the slight edge at 41 percent to Kidd's 40.
However, when it comes to making a shot in the clutch, Kidd has the clear advantage.
Since rejoining the Dallas Mavericks in 2007-2008, he has slowly gone from being a dynamic pass-first point guard to a point man who can make the necessary passes, but also serve as a silent assassin.
From 2008 to the present, Kidd's three-point percentage is at an astounding 44 percent.
Felton, on the other hand, seems to prefer shooting over running an offense. He did a fine job of doing both in D'Antoni's offense, averaging 17.1 points and nine assists before being sent to Denver in the Carmelo Anthony trade. For most of his career, however, he has taken way too many bad shots and still needs to improve his court vision so that he is viewed as more than just a combo guard.
Thus, in the shooting department, though Felton's career averages of 13.4 points and 6.7 assists are nothing to sneeze at, Kidd is the clear winner.
Court Vision/ Basketball IQ
In terms of overall stock when they first debuted, Kidd and Felton actually have quite a bit in common. Both are point men who can be just as effective in a scoring role as they are in a passing one, and both were lottery picks, with Kidd going second overall in 1994 and Felton going fifth in 2005.
Yet, while Felton certainly has his positive aspects and has the potential to have a great season, it's clear as to who has better court vision. Kidd is coming up on his 19th NBA season and in his prime—he was a constant triple-double threat.
For his career, he has averaged 13 points, 6.4 rebounds 1.9 steals and nine assists. Call me crazy, but you don't get those types of numbers standing on the court and doing nothing.
Simply put, Kidd is one of the smartest point guards in the league and to say he has no court vision left is just plain blasphemous. Just ask all of the teams who became victims of his clutch-three point shot, which he did not take until he was sure there was no other option but to do so.
Were this piece being written 10 years ago, the obvious answer would be Kidd. The man is second in career assists and still has something of a knack for finding the open man.
Yet, last season, Kidd's passing stats dropped from 8.2 assists per game in 2011 to 5.5 per game in 2012. Once keen to spread the ball around, he seemed content to pass the ball to his team's star and let them take over. Long story short, Kidd's days of running an offense could very well be gone.
Felton, on the other hand, while not having overwhelmingly good passing numbers, has been a starting point guard for virtually all of his career. Combining a solid passing game with some clutch three-point shooting and tough defense is no easy task, and Felton seems to have mastered each skill almost perfectly.
More importantly, as he showed during his brief tenure playing for D'Antoni a couple of seasons ago, Felton is good at spreading the ball around. Seeing as how the Knicks will have multiple targets to whom he may pass the ball, he will do just fine in the new system, and way better than Kidd.
Once again, we have an extremely close battle. Felton has averaged 1.4 steals for his career to Kidd's 1.9, and while he isn't terrible on defense, shooting is definitely his stronger suit. Still, Felton has the advantage here in that he can still keep up with people who think they're one step ahead of him on the court.
While the former North Carolina Tar Heel isn't a dominant pest by any means, he still has an advantage over Kidd in that he is simply younger. Yes, Kidd has played some phenomenal defense over the past few years, but he no longer has the necessary footwork to keep up with some of the younger players in the league.
Thus, while fans would surely love to have him on the floor to take the final shot in a tight game, Kidd's defense is probably hit or miss at this point. He'll have good days and bad days, but the Knicks need someone who'll be able to provide them solid consistency.
That all being said, we find ourselves in a tie.
Both Kidd and Felton each won two categories, so who will be the starting point guard for the New York Knicks come this fall?
Well, as much as I love Kidd, the clear answer is Felton.
First off, let's not forget that Mike Woodson runs an isolation offense. That means that all Felton has to do is get the ball to either Carmelo Anthony or Amar'e Stoudemire, with no fancy pick and roll moves necessary. On top of that, Felton can take care of himself in the scoring department and does a fine job on offense, be it shooting a three-pointer or driving to the basket.
Yes, Jason Kidd's numbers speak for themselves, but he just isn't the same type of player he was 10 years ago. Though he may not feel it, he's getting old and is little more than a shooter right now.
The Knicks need a point guard who could potentially fill the void left by Jeremy Lin, and based on skills alone, Felton is that man. He proved that he could help the team win during his first stint in New York, so his second should be full of excitement.
So long as Woodson puts him in the starting lineup, the Knicks could very well be primed to make a long and successful playoff run in 2012-2013.