5 Reasons Raymond Felton Is Better Fit for NY Knicks Than Jeremy Lin
After the New York Knicks' front office signed Raymond Felton and let overnight sensation Jeremy Lin go to the Houston Rockets, fans were understandably disappointed. Lin had taken the city by storm, and every indication that had been given stated that he would return. Unfortunately, the money was too much and Felton thus came aboard.
Felton turned some heads shortly after he signed his contract when he said that he was better than Lin, even after having the worst season of his career with the Portland Trail Blazers. Seeing as how the Knicks are now 16-5 and the best team in the Eastern Conference, it's hard to say that he was wrong.
The former Tar Heel has been a great fit in head coach Mike Woodson's system, forming great on-court relationships with teammates Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler while also pulling his weight in the scoring department. His role in the offense is playing a key role in the Knicks' success, and his continued consistency will be essential to how the team performs down the stretch.
Lin, on the other hand, is struggling mightily in Houston and only recently recaptured the "Linsanity" that earned him his current contract.
Thus, as much as some Linsanity fans may hate to admit it, Felton was actually right about being better than Lin.
No. 5: He Plays Better Defense
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Felton is not an elite pest by any means, but he has always played good defense at his position. He has averaged 1.4 steals for his career, and never takes a possession off. In the Knicks' season opener against the Miami Heat, he managed three steals, very impressive considering how Miami won a championship last season.
Felton also stays fully locked in on his opponent, whoever he may be. Even if his man is a superior player like Brandon Jennings, for example, he stays completely focused and does not give away baskets.
Lin has proven to be a solid defender in his young career, but still clearly has a lot to learn. In watching him play, it's as though he's thinking too much when covering his man. As a result, he tends to get beaten off the dribble more than he should, even if he does come up with an occasional good play.
Felton's experience allows him to be completely relaxed on defense, and thus gives him an advantage over the Harvard grad.
No. 4: He Can Adapt to Any System
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Believe it or not, this is Felton's second stint with the Knicks. His first was during the 2010-11 season, under head coach Mike D'Antoni and the famous run-and-gun game. That system is good for a point guard, which is why Felton and Lin performed so well in it.
Felton averaged 17.1 points and nine assists in 54 games for D'Antoni, but was then sent to the Denver Nuggets as part of the Carmelo Anthony trade.
Now playing in Mike Woodson's isolation game, Felton is averaging 15.8 points and 6.8 assists per game, both above his career marks of 13.5 and 6.7., and is also shooting 40 percent from long range.
Lin's path has been a little different. First he was flourishing in D'Antoni's system, then he was doing a decent job in Woodson's.
Now he's struggling in Houston's run-and-gun game. Whether or not he's playing with a hidden injury or just getting off to a bad start, one thing is certain: Lin's adjustment skills are still developing, and that makes him a far inferior point guard to the tested Felton.
No. 3: He Has More Experience
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This one here is pretty simple. The Knicks need a veteran point guard who can get the ball to their stars, and Felton has plenty of experience doing just that. He is currently in his eighth NBA season, has played with four different teams and knows how to utilize his skills.
Lin cannot say the same for himself. This is just his third NBA season, and he clearly still has a lot to learn about running the point, not to mention what kind of point guard he wants to be. Does he want to be a high-scoring point guard who also registers high assist totals, a la Steve Nash, or does he want to be a more traditional floor general who gets a lot of assists but only scores when necessary?
Felton knows his game well and was established as a reliable point guard long before Linsanity, so the experience points fall in his favor.
No. 2: He Is a Better Athlete
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Jeremy Lin has good size for a point guard at 6'3", 200 pounds, but is still a bit on the skinny side. He plays hard regardless of that, but natural athleticism is not really his strongest suit.
Felton is smaller at 6'1", but his 205 pounds give him a little extra oomph whenever he drives to the basket. He has good footwork and is slowly mastering the art of the floater (about 40 seconds in), plus his conditioning has been great this year. He also never seems to gas out in 33.3 minutes per game.
That isn't to say that Lin is a terrible athlete. He has a unique skill set that he brings to the table, but is still developing it fully along with his athleticism. Lin may one day be as good an athlete as Felton, but right now he's nowhere near on the same level.
No. 1: He Has Championship Experience
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The Knicks' primary goal is to win a championship, and having players with championship experience certainly helps in achieving this goal. Felton has never won a title on the professional level, but did in his junior year at the University of North Carolina.
Led by head coach Roy Williams and star big man Sean May, the Tar Heels reached the national title game against the University of Illinois, who were led by current Brooklyn Nets star Deron Williams. It was a hard-fought battle from start to finish, but North Carolina won 75-70 and took home its fourth national championship.
Felton performed well, scoring 17 points and dishing out seven assists to go with two steals. He was drafted fifth overall by the Charlotte Bobcats a couple of months later.
Yes, this game was years ago and on the college level, but it doesn't take away from the fact that Felton has been through the process of chasing a championship and coming out on the winning end. He played a key role in the success of that North Carolina team, and is doing the same for the Knicks this season.
Should the team's success hold up, he will use his prior experience to help New York push forward in their quest for a championship.
Lin had similar experience on the high school level, but never had the same success in college. While a great player for Harvard, he never played in the NCAA Tournament nor the NIT.
It may not seem like much of an edge, but championship experience means a lot. Felton has it and knows what it takes to be among the elite.
Sure, it was sad to see Lin go, but the Knicks' performance this season speaks for itself. Bringing Felton back was the right move, and he and the Knicks will only continue to get better as the season progresses.