Raymond Felton is the engine that makes the Knicks go.
The New York Knicks’ roster is filled with talent. With a mixture of young and old (mostly old), the Knicks have seen contributions from a variety of players on their way to a 28-15 start.
Each player has a different style and different personality. Plus, they have great team chemistry, something that lacked last year and in turn gave them trouble.
Having already exceeded their expectations, who’s to say they won’t further exceed them? Five of their seven games before the All-Star break are against teams under .500. If they play up to their standards, their momentum should carry into the team’s second half.
And they are starting to get healthy. Raymond Felton is back. Iman Shumpert is back. Those are two key players who will enable the Knicks to go on a run.
When Felton fractured his right pinky on Christmas Day, he missed a month’s worth of games. He is averaging 15.4 points per game and is a big reason for the Knicks' early successes. The Knicks were 7-7 in his absence.
The injury put the load on 39-year-old Jason Kidd and 35-year-old Pablo Prigioni to run point. It’s not that they didn’t perform, they just need some rest. Without Felton, their minutes went up and consequently, their production down.
When Kidd was the primary ball-handler, he was much less productive than when he played the 2 with Felton in the lineup.
Admittedly, Felton's not 100 percent yet, but he creates plays and gets his teammates involved. In the games without Felton, there was much more one-on-one isolation.
Where will the Knicks finish in the Eastern Conference?
Felton's health will give Kidd and Prigioni some much needed rest. He is the engine that makes this team run. Having him back in the lineup is huge heading into the second half of the season.
Shumpert and big man Tyson Chandler bring tremendous defense. Chandler is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. Prigioni is becoming a force on the defense as well, locking down the opposing point guards. Credit coach Mike Woodson with the resurgence of the team's defense.
A major factor in why the Knicks will end up first in the East is depth. When a team has J.R. Smith and Amar’e Stoudemire coming off the bench, you know they’re deep.
Smith is a candidate for Sixth Man of the Year. He is averaging 16.2 points while having his best season as a pro. We’ve seen his maturation and his ability to share the ball. Shots that he would have forced in years past, he’s now finding an open man.
Stoudemire is a $100 million man coming off the bench. That’s how deep this team is. Of course Stoudemire wants to start, but he has accepted his role. He's putting the team in front of himself, and that's always a good sign.
When Anthony needs a break, the Knicks don’t miss a beat with Stoudemire coming in. And they have shown this season they are able to share the floor, something that was the downfall of this team a year ago.
With Prigioni, Steve Novak, Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas, James White and Chris Copeland, this Knicks team is as complete of a team as there is. The bench players are perfect complements to the starting five.
Although there is a lot of season left, the Knicks have the pieces to bring a championship back to New York. Winning five of their past seven is a huge confidence boost.
If they can continue to share the ball, play tight defense and execute on offense, there's no reason to think they won't wind up on top of the Eastern Conference. Currently they are a game and a half behind Miami for the top spot in the East.
In the end, for this old Knicks team, their success relies on health.