Why Raymond Felton's Defense Could Cost Him Minutes for NY Knicks in 2013-14

Ciaran Gowan@@CiaranGowanContributor IIIOctober 8, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 27: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors advances the ball against Raymond Felton #2 of the New York Knicks on February 27, 2013 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE  (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Raymond Felton is the clear starting point guard for the New York Knicks, but if he continues to struggle on the defensive end in 2013-14, he could see his playing time cut significantly.

After re-signing Pablo Prigioni, adding Beno Udrih and bringing Toure' Murry into camp, New York has plenty of alternatives behind Felton and won't have to stick with him if he continues to play turnstile defense on the perimeter.

Offensively, Felton was a revelation for the Knicks last year. His ability to penetrate, run the pick-and-roll and hit the three were at the heart of the NBA's third-ranked offense, and his presence running the point made a big difference to ball movement.

Felton's play on defense will need to improve for the Knicks to be elite on that end of the floor.
Felton's play on defense will need to improve for the Knicks to be elite on that end of the floor.Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

On the other end of the floor, however, Felton was one of the team's weak points, allowing opposition guards to get into the paint way too easily. According to 82games, Felton allowed 23.8 points per game from his opponents, with a 19.7 PER. As a result, his net statistical impact on the Knicks was negative.

To be fair to Felton, Golden State Warrior Stephen Curry's huge 54-point game at MSG inflated the overall season numbers, and there wasn't much Felton could do to stop him with all the ridiculous shots he was hitting that night.

The stats also don't bear out just how important Felton was to the offense, but either way, it's clear his defense needs to improve for him to stay on the court this year.

Despite his age, Prigioni is a strong defender on the perimeter, who causes a lot of turnovers and has the experience to stay one step ahead of his opponents. Udrih, meanwhile, isn't known for being a stopper, but he is capable of playing at least average defense.

Last, but not least, Murry has a chance to make the team in training camp almost entirely because of the defensive effort he showed in summer league, showcasing his ability to comfortably guard three positions.

The problem last year was that the Knicks couldn't run the offensive system they wanted to with Felton off the floor, because the aging Prigioni and Jason Kidd didn't have the same kind of explosiveness. That won't be an issue now with Udrih and Murry on the roster.

With Prigioni, Udrih and Murry, the Knicks have more than enough depth to cut Felton's minutes if they need to.
With Prigioni, Udrih and Murry, the Knicks have more than enough depth to cut Felton's minutes if they need to.Gary Dineen/Getty Images

Felton is the most well-rounded offensive player out of the four, but he isn't so much better that New York won't be able to get by without him on the floor. 

No matter what, Felton is going to be the starter this year. Mike Woodson already has him locked in and Felton's the only player out of the four currently in his prime. Prigioni and Udrih would be better off playing less minutes in the regular season, while Murry hasn't proven enough to demand significant playing time, if he makes the roster at all.

With all that said, Felton's defensive issues shouldn't be too difficult to remedy if he puts in the effort. When he's wanted to be, he's been a very solid defender in the past and was a key part of the defensive-minded Charlotte Bobcats that made the playoffs in 2009-10.

Furthermore, Felton has also lost a lot of weight this summer, which should help him to stay in front of guards at the point of attack. He also claims he still has a chip on his shoulder after all the criticism he's faced in recent years.

There's good reason to believe that Felton will bounce back defensivelyand that would be idea—but the Knicks have enough depth now that he won't be able to get away with sub-par play on the defensive end of the floor any more.