Raymond Felton: 5 Things New York Knicks Must Do During His Absence
Raymond Felton, at times, might be the most frustrating New York Knicks starter to watch. His amazing ability to toss up reckless shots in crunch time has forced me to berate my television set multiple times already this season.
However, despite his volume shooting and mediocre field goal percentage, it is undeniable the role Felton has played in leading the Knicks to their hot start.
Not only has Felton been instrumental in helping the Knicks to their NBA low 11.0 turnovers per game, but he has excelled on offense using the pick-and-roll with Tyson Chandler.
The Felton-Chandler pick-and-roll has added another dimension to the Knicks offense, allowing the team to diversify its attack. This has taken pressure off of Carmelo Anthony and helped make the Knicks' offense one of the NBA's best.
To further validate Felton’s importance to the Knicks, he is a member of eight of the team’s nine most productive five-man units according to NBA.com.
Although his game may be flawed, Felton is undoubtedly a key part of these New York Knicks.
As he sits out for the next four to six weeks with a broken finger, the Knicks will definitely miss his presence.
Yet there are several things the team can do to keep winning during his absence.
Here is a glance at five of them.
Continue to Limit Turnovers
Turnovers are the absolute worst thing that can happen to a team on offense. In addition to not even getting a shot off, the team is usually faced with a fast break the other way from the opposition.
As stated in the introduction, the New York Knicks have been the NBA’s best team in limiting their turnovers thus far this season.
Naturally, a large part of this must be credited to point guard Raymond Felton. Felton may have the second most turnovers per game on the team (2.4 per contest), but he also handles the ball more than any other player.
His absence was greatly felt in Friday’s loss to the Sacramento Kings, when the team committed 17 turnovers.
Going forward, other ball-handlers like Jason Kidd, Pablo Prigioni, J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony must work to keep the Knicks’ turnover total low in Felton’s absence.
If the team can keep their turnover average near where it is now, their winning ways should continue.
Be More Creative on Offense
The New York Knicks’ offense is primarily based on Carmelo Anthony isolation plays, the pick-and-roll and three-point shooting.
The team does not have an abundance of players who can create their own shot, which is why they use the three-pointer and pick-and-roll to such an extent.
Without Felton, the team’s most effective pick-and-roll guard, the Knicks will look to other creative ways for scoring.
This means the team will rely on more off-ball movement and cutting to get players open shots.
This was evident last Friday night, as head coach Mike Woodson found several creative ways—such as backdoor cuts—to get Tyson Chandler the ball close to the basket.
Also, look for the New York Knicks to fast break more.
Fast-breaking and pushing the tempo will help the Knicks generate open shots during Felton's absence.
Currently the New York Knicks rank only 27th in the NBA in fast-break points. I wouldn't expect this number to increase drastically in Felton’s absence, but at least a slight improvement will help the Knicks earn several victories.
Play with Defensive Intensity for 48 Minutes
The New York Knicks’ recipe for success this season has been combining phenomenal offense with good enough defense. While the team has shown stretches of dominant defensive play, consistency has been an issue.
Playing out of a 27 point hole, like the team had to in the Kings game, is not an easy task. Even against a relatively weak opponent, the Knicks couldn't overcome this large a deficit.
Without Felton, the team’s offensive production will likely decline somewhat, placing increased importance on the team's defense.
To improve in this area, the entire team must commit to it for 48 minutes.
The Knicks currently rank only 17th in the NBA in defensive efficiency at 102.6 points allowed per 100 possessions. This number must get better if the New York Knicks want to continue to win at their current rate.
Keep Raining Threes
The three-point field goal has been a staple of the New York Knicks’ offense all season long. In fact, the team is on a record pace for both three-point attempts and makes.
Felton may be responsible for 4.1 three-point attempts per game, but don’t expect the Knicks to stop raining threes without him.
Actually, expect the opposite. Without Felton to run the pick-and-roll, the Knicks will probably rely even more on three-point shooting.
This will be a good thing as long as the team keeps taking open threes and making them.
In order to do this, the Knicks must maintain their exceptional perimeter ball movement and Carmelo Anthony must continue his stellar offensive play.
Many of the Knicks’ threes come as a result of the opposition double teaming Anthony in isolation. This double team leaves a Knick open on the perimeter, and with good passing, he can get the ball in position to launch an uncontested shot.
Quick passing and an abundance of scoring from Anthony should be good enough to keep giving the Knicks’ deadly array of three-point shooters open opportunities.
J.R. Smith, Jason Kidd or Pablo Prigioni Must Improve Their Pick-and-Roll Play
Just because Raymond Felton is injured doesn’t mean the New York Knicks should shy away from using the pick-and-roll. Being more creative on offense will help the team find other ways to score, but the pick-and-roll must remain one of the Knicks’ most used plays.
This is because of Tyson Chandler’s exceptional ability to finish around the rim. Chandler does not have the best offensive post moves though. To account for this, the pick-and-roll is used to get him the ball close to the hoop where he can do what he does best—dunk.
Straying away from the play would only mean not maximizing Chandler's skill set.
Also, Amar’e Stoudemire should return this week and is one of the NBA’s best pick-and-roll finishers as well.
Chandler and Stoudemire give the New York Knicks two great pick-and-roll big men that must be used.
To use them though, the Knicks must find a guard to run the play close to Felton’s level.
The best options to assume this role are J.R. Smith, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni.
Each one of these players could step into this role if they overcome certain deficiencies.
J.R. Smith could be a fantastic pick-and-roll player but he tends to over dribble at times and inexplicably struggles with passing.
Jason Kidd is an excellent passer and decision-maker, but at this stage of his career lacks the quickness to be a real scoring threat.
Pablo Prigioni possesses the quickness to get into the teeth of the defense, but hasn’t shown great finishing ability in his short NBA career.
The Knicks have been the second most efficient offense in the NBA this season at 110.3 points per 100 possessions. To continue at this outstanding rate, J.R. Smith, Jason Kidd or Pablo Prigioni must step up their pick-and-roll game.