Much was made of Lin's departure from the Big Apple.
We were led to believe the decision to let him sign with the Houston Rockets was a financial one, but what transpired did have the unmistakable footprints of James Dolan's interference as well.
Whatever the reason, business or personal, it doesn't matter. Had the Knicks not been able to strike a deal for a capable floor general, they would have had no choice but to re-sign Lin.
But New York wasn't put in that position. The team was able to acquire Felton, who has consequently been instrumental in the success the Knicks have laid claim to.
Currently, Felton is averaging 15.9 points (second-most on the team), 6.9 assists and 1.3 steals per game on 43.1 percent shooting and a career-best 41.9 percent clip from downtown.
The point guard Felton has replaced, however, has not fared so well. Lin is averaging 10.5 points, 6.4 assists and 1.9 steals on 38.6 percent shooting from the field and an eye-gouging 25.6 percent clip from downtown.
And yet, it's not so much the stats as it is the fit that makes it clear the Knicks were correct to spurn Lin in favor of Felton.
Attempts have been made to belittle Lin and pull the trigger on a bust label all season. Loads of that negative backlash, however, have to do with resentment more than anything else.
Even those outside of New York remain skeptical regarding the point guard's potential, likely because he was made out to be a star overnight. For this reason, his performance has been scrutinized to no end.
But as poorly as Lin has played, the potential for him to develop into a sophisticated floor general is still there. He has the court vision and craftiness necessary to adjust and ultimately succeed.
As was the problem over the summer, though, Lin's potential doesn't do his current team a whole lot of good. Just look at the Rockets, who currently sit at 9-8 in spite of his performance.
That's not what the Knicks needed, and not a dynamic they could not afford to carry. New York needed a point guard who was prepared to direct a contender, someone who wasn't still adapting to NBA play.
As it turns out, they needed Felton.
From the depths of Portland, Felton came back to New York, the locale where had once played the best basketball of his career. His goal was to regain such composure and provide the type of certainty in the backcourt the Knicks had not known since he left in 2011.
And that's exactly what he's done—a feat that is not to be discounted. After all, there was plenty of ambiguity surrounding his return to the concrete jungle.
This was a point guard coming off the worst season of his NBA career, someone who battled consistency and conditioning issues through all of last year. This was someone who presented arguably as much ambivalence as Lin.
But Mike Woodson and the Knicks saw something in Felton. They saw a veteran point man who averaged 17.1 points and nine assists in New York the first time around. They saw someone who could lead a championship-worthy cause.
Looking at what has transpired since the Knicks made that decision, it's impossible to argue against them.
New York is posting a plus-11 with Felton on the floor per 48 minutes, the 10th-highest point differential of all players averaging at least 25 minutes per game. With him in the lineup, the Knicks' offensive rating stands at 120 points per possession compared to 99 without him. Their effective field-goal percentage stands at 54.5 when he's present, as opposed to the 48.6 mark they hit when he's on the pine.
In other words, the Knicks have proved to be a legitimate contender. They're playing their best basketball, executing at their highest rate when he's on the floor.
Can the Rockets say the same of Lin? Not at all.
They're posting a minus-1.9 with him on the court and their offensive efficiency jumps to 111 points per 100 possessions with him off the floor compared to 106.2 with him on it.
Again, this is not to trash Lin or drag his abilities through the mud. Obviously, no advanced statistic is going to tell the whole story, but they are a good starting point for an accurate measure of the impact each player has on his respective team.
Right now, Felton has helped transform the Knicks from a fringe playoff threat into a bona fide contender. His relentless offensive attack, understated defensive intensity and willingness to play through injury is of the utmost importance to New York's cause.
Simply put, Felton's devotion and subsequent performance has taken the Knicks to new heights.
A point they would not have seen if Lin remained the team's point guard.
Note: All stats in this article are accurate as of Dec. 6, 2012.
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