When the New York Knicks bolted out to an 18-5 start this year, it seemed like the offseason decision to let Jeremy Lin join the Houston Rockets was a good one. But the Knicks have essentially been a .500 team since their hot opening run, and the production of Raymond Felton's backups has basically dropped off of a cliff in recent weeks.
According to Jared Zwerling of ESPN, New York's search for backup help at the point guard position has it kicking the tires on the mercurial, oft-suspended Delonte West and the wholly unremarkable Sundiata Gaines.
So perhaps the Knicks miss Lin after all.
Looking at the numbers, Felton has been wildly inconsistent as a shooter from month to month—ultimately, he has played the position at a league-average level. In fact, his PER of 15.00 is precisely "average" by definition. But Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni don't enjoy that same modest distinction.
Over the season's first two months, Kidd was something of a physical marvel. At age 39, the point guard had essentially transformed into an effective standstill facilitator with a deadly three-point shot. In 24 games before Dec. 25, Kidd hit nearly 44 percent of his threes. That accuracy had a lot to do with the Knicks' impressive team-wide shooting numbers to that point.
In 34 games since Christmas, though, Kidd has hit just under 30 percent of his threes and only 34 percent of his shots overall. Add in his clearly diminishing mobility and it's no wonder the Knicks have successively cut his minutes in every month since December.
Prigioni hasn't seen quite as significant of a decline as Kidd has; his overall three-point accuracy rate sits at 38 percent on the year and aside from a slow start in March, he's been a reliable shooter. The problem with the 35-year-old rookie, though, is that he's such a reluctant offensive player. In just about 15 minutes per game, Prigioni shoots the ball less than three times per contest.
Quite clearly, the shooting issues are different for Kidd and Prigioni. But the inability to penetrate on offense and the total failure to contain quick opposing guards is shared. And those shortcomings bring us back to Lin and the question of whether or not he'd represent much of an improvement over what the Knicks currently have behind Felton.
On the season, Lin's numbers haven't been spectacular, but they've definitely been superior to Kidd's and Prigioni's. His 14.82 PER is technically below average, but it's still better than the 13.18 and 14.26 figures Prigioni and Kidd have respectively posted.
Lin would definitely allow the Knicks to run more often, penetrate more effectively and compete athletically with opposing guards. His strengths—aggressiveness and the ability to get to the rim—are precisely what the Knicks aren't getting from their current backups.
Here's the problem, though: In order to have kept Lin around, the Knicks would have had to match Houston's $25 million offer sheet, which they had the option to do both before and after they executed a sign-and-trade deal for Felton. Without rehashing all of the details, it appears that picking Felton over Lin has essentially amounted to a wash on the court.
Both are basically league-average players capable of contributing in a positive way to a good team. Had New York opted to match Lin's offer sheet before trading for Felton, they'd very likely be in the same position they are now: good at the starting point guard position, but bad in relief.
Considering that Felton makes roughly half of Lin's salary over the life of their respective deals, it's really hard to fault the Knicks for picking Felton over Lin.
But having both was technically an option, and with the way Kidd and Prigioni are performing behind Felton, the Knicks are probably wishing they'd brought Lin back for a second round of Linsanity.
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