Is Raymond Felton the Worst PG in the NBA?

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Is Raymond Felton the Worst PG in the NBA?
Jason DeCrow/Associated Press

Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Knight is a bad player, plying his trade for a bad team. But on Monday night, he had a chance to shoot the Bucks to a rare victory. As he walked the ball up the court with mere seconds left on the clock and the score tied at 98, Knight had only one thought on his mind: I want Raymond Felton.

Per The Wall Street Journal's Chris Herring:

There are so many bad defenders on this New York Knicks team, but none inspire quite the giddy sense of anticipation in opposing ball-handlers as does Felton, the portly point guard. Knight did indeed get matched up on Felton, and unsurprisingly, he stuck a three-pointer in Felton's eye—ballgame: Bucks 101, Knicks 98.

After the game, the website obglobal.net profiled Felton's performance in a disgusted, profanity-laced series of rants. (Warning: NSFW)

The maker of this video has a point. It is impossible to watch Felton air-ball floaters and layups, all while playing some of the worst defense ever seen by man, and not feel a bit ashamed...for him, for the Knicks, for everyone watching. 

And this was not simply a one-game incident. Whether he is injured, out-of-shape or over-the-hill, Felton has played this season like a shadow of the point guard who helped the Knicks to 54 wins in the 2012-13 season.

He has become so terrible, on both sides of the ball, that it is now fair to ask if Raymond Felton is the worst point guard in the NBA.

 

Felton's Problems: Shooting and Defense

The Knicks brought back Felton in the summer of 2012—just before they jettisoned the extremely popular Jeremy Lin. The move was considered reasonable at the time, according to Bleacher Report's Jim Cavan:

Given the team's cash-strapped prospects and fragile makeup, the move made more than a little bit of sense. In Felton, the Knicks were reacquiring a point guard who, for all his faults and drawbacks, could at least be counted upon to effectively manage the offense.

Felton was by no means a superstar for the Knicks in 2012-13, but he did make a considerable impact on the team's offense. New York averaged 6.6 more points per 100 possessions with Felton on the floor.

Unfortunately, New York's opponents averaged 4.5 more points per 100 possessions when matched up against Felton. He was giving back nearly everything he added on offense...but not quite. That "not quite" paid huge dividends for the 2012-13 team, as their offensive rating rose from 17th in the NBA during 2011-12 all the way up to third, while their defense fell from fifth to 18th. The Knicks were a worse defensive team but scored efficiently enough to overcome that weakness.

Jason DeCrow/Associated Press

Defensively, this season's version of Felton is little different from the 2012-13 version...and that is a bad thing. Even at his best, Felton lacks the lateral quickness to keep up with most guards. And Felton hasn't been anywhere near his best this season in terms of health and conditioning.

He cannot contain guards off the dribble, and he has a nasty habit of nestling himself into screeners, resting comfortably against a big man while the player he's supposed to be guarding stands at the three-point line with the ball. When guarded by Felton, most shooters have enough time to eat a meatball sub before hoisting up an uncontested shot.

On offense, his three-point shooting has plummeted from 36.0 percent in 2012-13 to an unacceptable 29.9 percent. Felton is currently ranked 80th in three-point shooting among the 86 guards with at least 100 attempts.

As this season has progressed, it has become increasingly clear that Felton's shooting last season was an aberration and not the norm. This season's 29.9 percent shooting mark may be closer to Felton's real shooting ability. He shot 30.5 percent during the 2011-12 season in Portland and averaged 30.3 percent during the three-year period from 2006 to 2009. Quite simply, Felton is not that good of a shooter.

Yes, all of this is bad...but does it truly make Felton the worst?

 

The Worst of the Worst

Tom Lynn/Associated Press

Has Felton been the worst point guard in the league in 2013-14? That depends...do Chris Smith's two minutes of playing time count?

Statistically speaking, Felton has a very real case to be called the worst point guard in the NBA playing major minutes. There is no doubt that he is the worst veteran point guard earning major minutes.

Among the 79 guards who have played at least 1,000 minutes, Felton ranks 73rd in Basketball-Reference's win-shares-per-48-minutes metric at .031 (.100 being average). Of the six players rated below Felton, only one is older than 22: Bucks shooting guard O.J. Mayo. The only two point guards—Victor Oladipo of the Orlando Magic and Trey Burke of the Utah Jazz—are both rookies.

Oladipo is merely running the point this season as an experiment on a Magic team more concerned with player development than with winning; he is really more of a natural wing. Burke is a true point guard, but he has only played 36 games in his NBA career. Both are talented rookies who are likely to finish with efficiency ratings higher than Felton. 

Truly, Raymond Felton is the most inexcusably bad point guard in the league. He is only 29 years old and should be in his prime. Instead, he's tanking his NBA career and dragging the Knicks along with him.

 

All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.

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