Last year, the world was introduced to "Linsanity" in all of its pomp and splendor. On Feb. 4, 2012, a young man largely unknown to the casual NBA fan stepped in to the bright lights and on to the big stage of Madison Square Garden to begin living a dream. A dream that was deferred for a time after Lin was cut by the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets. He would lead the Knicks through their most exciting February in recent memory.
Jeremy Lin has since gone on to greener monetary pastures with the Houston Rockets, and the New York Knicks are fighting the Miami Heat for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. It appears that all is well that ends well, and point guard Raymond Felton is a large reason why. He is currently averaging 14.9 points, 6.3 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game and will match his high mark for season average if he continues scoring at the same rate.
In Houston, Lin has been placed alongside combo guard James Harden, arguably the best combo guard in the game today, and now the man who once sparked an international media frenzy is enjoying his third season in the NBA, averaging 12.5 points per game to go along with 6.1 assists and 3.5 rebounds.
Though the after glow of "Linsanity" has since faded, many Lin fans are still disappointed he left, while fans of the seemingly steadier Felton are glad to have him back.
They both showed, and continue to show, flashes of being downtown point guards who get down to business, while delighting the crowd with of uptown flare. Felton has started 37 games for the Knicks this season, Lin started 25 games for New York in 2011-12.
So, who was/is better for the Knicks? I have selected five categories to measure their comparable skill sets: scoring, rebounding, assists/play-making ability, strength and athleticism, and defense.
The Tale of the Tape
Jeremy Lin (6'3", 200 lbs.)
The former phenomenon known as Jeremy Lin is indicative of being in the right place at the right time. The Knicks were floundering out of the gate at the start of the strike-shortened season of 2011-12 with an 8-15 record.
Shoot-first combo guard Toney Douglas was starting at point guard at the time because of a season-ending injury to Chauncey Billups. He was backed up by aging point guard Mike Bibby, another player whose best attribute was his shooting, and he was not doing that very well at the time either.
There was very little ball movement for the Knicks, and the stagnant offense was not unlike water collected in a filthy garbage can—it stunk to high heaven. Lin would get his shot when Douglas went down with an injury, and back up guard Bibby failed to provide the Knicks' with a needed spark to get them over the hump. After not starting the first two games of the month, Lin would go on to average 19.4 points per game in the month of February, averaging a jaw-dropping 26.3 ppg and 9.2 assists over his first 10 starts.
Lin would miss the last 17 games of the regular season and playoffs due to injury. But, when asked if Lin was going to be a Knick the following year, coach Mike Woodson said the Knicks would "absolutely" match the four-year, $28.8 million offer sheet the Houston Rockets presented to Lin. I suppose "absolutely" doesn't quite have the same meaning as in the past. Lin would later sign with the Rockets where he currently starts alongside James Harden.
Raymond Felton (6'0", 205 pounds)
Felton was drafted by the Charlotte Bobcats. The now New York Knicks point guard, Felton has had a pretty decent run so far in the NBA. However, he seems to start off hot early each season before eventually falling back toward the mediocrity line of demarcation by the All Star break. Despite that, Felton is averaging a very respectable 13.2 points, 6.7 assists, 3.3 rebounds per game for his career.
The year he was traded to the Denver Nuggets, Felton was averaging a career best 17.1 points per game, along with a career best 9.1 assists over 54 games. However, he would only average 11.5 points per game and 6.5 assists in 21 games coming off the bench for the Nuggets, having to share minutes at the point with Ty Lawson, Andre Miller and a swirling cast of others.
The 2010-11 season began as the best of a myriad of Felton's "Get Smart" seasons in which he would miss taking his game to the next level for whatever reason. At times, I feel like I've been watching Felton struggle to let out a big sneeze for eight years, as he's been "almost" and "kind of" pretty good his entire career. Sneeze already, man! In 2011-12, Felton would play for the Portland Trailblazers before resigning with the Knicks for the 2012-13 season.