Felton’s 26 assists in the Knicks first four preseason games surely does evoke memories of his first time around. He did it in just 90 minutes too, which averages out to about 13 for a full 48.
Not even Jeremy Lin can claim that. He was at about 11.
The turnover comparison is a slam dunk in Felton’s favor, with Ray coughing it up nearly two times less over the same number of minutes played. Lin had five turnovers or more in more than a third of the games he played. Felton’s high-turnover games accounted for closer to a fourth of his 2010 season. Finally, Lin had more than seven turnovers six times. Felton never had more than six.
These two factors alone—improved ball and team handling—should give the Knicks offense, and their record, a boost. The true scoring monsters, not the point guard, need to be fed. Facilitating this offense, and melding Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, is Felton’s number one priority.
Jeremy Lin was great, and “Linsanity” was just the shot in the arm the team needed last season, but the more you look at it, you find a much more appropriate, and experienced, fit at the point in the person of a “solid” Raymond Felton, especially with this team’s construction.
There is one place, though, where I expect Lin to excel Felton in 2012-13. And it’s also going to be the one big difference between Felton’s 2010 campaign and what will be this year’s.
Point production will drop for 2012 Felton. It’s already showing.
Of course, as with any starting player on any NBA team, Felton will have those handful of takeover games, like when he scored 35 against the Golden State Warriors and 28 against the pesky Toronto Raptors. The Knicks will welcome those.
In 2010, Felton went for over 17 points a game. But Mike Woodson has already put a leash on this, with the point guard managing a responsible seven PPG this preseason.
Leave the explosiveness to the Big Three. The new energy Felton will bring to this team will be in the form of court management and offensive facilitation, not buckets. The Knicks are not designed for point guard point production, and in fact, such play is damagingly disruptive to Woodson’s stricter half-court plan, and the goal of getting Anthony and Stoudemire on the same page.
I bring you this (final, I promise) Lin-Felton comparison as a statistical and theoretical proof of the overall offensive upgrade the Knicks have made in going for Felton over Lin.
But what about real life?
If you’ve been a good Knicks fan, following the roster transition that began with Stoudemire’s acquisition, then you are well aware of how well he and Felton clicked, particularly on the pick and roll. Mike D’Antoni described it as “unguardable.”
The video is from the pre-Anthony days, but the concept is still the same. Off the pick and roll, Felton will feed either Stoudemire inside, hit Anthony (or Novak or Smith) on the wing or take the shot.
We’ll see plenty of pick and roll in 2012-13. Felton and Stoudemire will employ it often when Anthony is on the bench, but when all three are on the court, it will become a disorienting multi-option play that will keep opponents’ defenses spread out and force them into frequent shifts.
Much has also been made of Stoudemire’s post-up training with Hakeem Olajuwon over the summer. It will be interesting to watch this relatively new facet of Stat’s (and Felton’s) combined game develop throughout 2012-13. The point guard should have no problem posting up to Amar'e, and becoming a scoring option himself.
Finally, what about the good old fast break? Basic stuff for veterans of the seven seconds or less offense:
All of this, naturally, depends on Stoudemire’s health, which is, as usual, in question. He’s missed most of the preseason and, according to Newsday, will already be “out two to three weeks with [a] cyst in [his] knee...[and] will miss [up to] five [regular season] games.”.
Either way, Felton has a second big man to manage. Where does Tyson Chandler fit in?
Well, Stoudemire is not the only Knick who’s got a history with Raymond Felton. Chandler and Felton played together on the Charlotte Bobcats back in 2009-10:
Now take a look at this from the Knicks’ first preseason game against the Washington Wizards a couple of weeks ago:
Look familiar? They haven’t lost a step. And Felton guaranteed we'll see more of these alley-oops over the course of the season during his Media Day interview with Tina Cervasio where he also discussed the trade to Denver, his out-of-shape days, his return to New York and a new-look team, the Stoudemire reunion, Jason Kidd and Carmelo Anthony:
As for Carmelo Anthony, that is the most critical on-court relationship Felton will need to foster in 2012-13. It's the most important spoke of the point-guard wheel that has yet to be battle-tested at the professional level, though he and Felton have established some rapport in three of the four exhibition games played thus far.
And Melo is quick to remind us that he too played with Felton, so there is some familiarity. Anthony told the Daily News,
This is a special year for him mentally, for him being traded from here and having the chance to come back and prove to people what his game is about..I know, for him, he has a chip on his shoulder. I've been playing against Raymond since I was 9 years old in AAU basketball so he's been the same since then. He wants to prove everybody wrong.
That, and a solid playoff run, will be the final proof.