NBA: 13 Reasons Why Raymond Felton Will Lead New York Knicks To Playoffs
Nine seasons since the New York Knicks have won a playoff game. During those years, they have made the playoffs once (2002-03), and they were swept in the first round. They haven't had a winning record in those years and they haven't finished above 3rd in the Atlantic Division since the 1999-2000 season.
We have seen big names like Marcus Camby, Antonio McDyess and Stephon Marbury try, and fail to bring this team back to respectability. The Knicks have been the laughingstock of the NBA and Madison Square Garden—the "Basketball Mecca"—turned into a place where frustration and anger loomed more than anything.
Enter Donnie Walsh.
His "Go Get It" attitude and hard work have slowly brought this ailing franchise back on it's feet. He has brought in a star—Amare Stoudemire—and now has guys like Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul in his sights. He found some young talent in Toney Douglas via trade and Landry Fields late in this year's draft, but there is one acquisition that will be the reason the Knickerbockers finally make it back to the playoffs in 2010.
His name is Raymond Felton, and here are 13 reasons why he is the key to New York's success this year.
1. He Is Scoring at a High Rate
Through his four years with the Charlotte Bobcats, Felton was averaging just over 13 points per game.
I expected some improvement in Mike D'Antoni's system, but Felton has been a beast so far this season. He ranks sixth in scoring for a point guard with 18.2ppg. He is ahead of guys like Brandon Jennings and Tony Park, and he has been shooting a high percentage with a FG% of .471, better than the two PPG leaders at point, Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose.
His production is providing some scoring balance and consistency to a team that has struggled to find an identity over the past decade.
2. He Fits D'Antoni's System Well
During the preseason, acquiring a point guard wasn't even a consideration for Donnie Walsh and the Knicks. They had their eyes set on LeBron James, Amare, Joe Johnson and other prized free agents.
When James "took his talents to South Beach" and Johnson stuck with Atlanta, the Knicks locked up Stoudemire and changed their course of action.
They signed Felton hoping he would be a good fit for their style of play, and they were completely right. He loves to push the ball down court and shoot in transition. He has the uncanny ability to set something up on the run and find his teammates on fast breaks, all necessary qualities in a D'Antoni "run n' gun" offense.
He may not be Steve Nash, but his numbers aren't far behind what Nash did under D'Antoni's command, and this is only Felton's first 20 games under the mustached Italian, so he will only gain more confidence and rapport with his teammates as the season goes on.
3. He Is a Team Player
Before Raymond joined the Knicks, us New York fans enjoyed the services of guys like Stephon Marbury. Marbury was a shoot first, pass second kind of guy on the Knicks. I can't really blame him because his help wasn't really there, but he didn't create opportunities for his teammates, or make people better around him.
So far, Felton has been a key scorer for New York, but he has done a great job at getting his teammates involved and making this offense as effective as any in the NBA. His 8.1 assists per game is good for eighth in the league and although his turnovers may be a little high so far, I think that number will just go down as the season moves forward. He just needs time to jell with his new teammates and find out how they like to play.
4. He Is a Veteran With Plenty of Experience
I know four years doesn't seem like that long, but when you are starting basically every game during that time span, you gain a lot of much needed game experience that prevents you from committing the stupid turnovers and bad decisions that the Knicks have made during their "decade to forget."
Not to mention, Felton led the Bobcats to the playoffs last year. When he was drafted fifth overall by Charlotte in 2005, Charlotte was one of, if not the worst teams in the NBA, so Ray knows how it feels to work hard with a team to improve and compete with the best.
5. He Is Meshing With Amare Stoudemire Well
Felton and Stoudemire were the Knicks two biggest acquisitions of this past offseason.
It was thought that these two guys playing styles would work well together, and so far, this relationship has grown into a dominant one as of late. Amare is a great post player who works well off of the pick and roll, has great hands and can finish strong every time he gets close to the rim. Felton is a passing guard who can run the pick and roll with the best and has great vision to find the open man in all situations.
During the Knicks streak of seven wins in their last eight games, this one-two punch has really led the charge. Either Felton or Stoudemire lead the Knicks in all major categories (FG%, PPG, APG, RPG and SPG) and if they can go out and produce every day, New York will continue to win games.
6. He Can Beat You In Many Ways
Having a guy like Felton on your squad is a luxury because of all the things he can do with the ball.
He is a great passer with the ability to run plays to perfection and get his teammates open. He has shown this year that he can score when he needs to—whether it be the mid-range jumper, the three ball, or going hard to the rack.
His ability to get to the basket makes him able to draw more fouls, kick the ball out to one of the many three-point shooters or feed it to a big man underneath. All of this makes the Knicks much more dynamic on offense and balances out their attack well.
7. His Defense Has Improved
We haven't seen any poor defense out of Felton like in the picture above and it is key for the Knicks to improve their perimeter defense if they want to make the playoffs.
Felton leads the team with two steals per contest, half of a steal more than he's had per game in any of his previous years. The team as a whole has done a better job on ball defending and not giving away bad fouls, so having Felton picking pockets and turning them into easy fast breaks, it helps the defense out a lot, but also keeps the fast paced flow the Knicks thrive on as well.
8. He Is a Great Leader
Its hard in your first year on a new team to have the impact that Felton has had in only 19 games, but his leadership qualities are evident when he steps on that court.
He has the swagger that a point guard in New York needs to be successful. He shows trust in his teammates and their abilities, as well and believing that he can get the job done day in and day out.
I have seen him in almost every game with his teammates, encouraging them, coaching them up, and working on a previous mistake or miscommunication they may have had. He shows a passion to win that is very admirable and as a fan, I am pleased to see such dedication to get better and help the Knicks become an elite franchise once again.
9. He Conducts Himself In a Professional Manner, on and off the Court
Leading by example goes a long way for the chemistry of your team and makes for a sound locker room.
Felton is a guy who is never suspended, doesn't lose his cool, doesn't get in trouble off the court and virtually never gets injured. When you have a young team who is looking to change the way things have been operating in order to compete, it really helps having such a class act leading your team.
All of his teammates seem to listen to what he has to say and they respect what he stands for and how he plays the game.
10. He Has Some Talent Around Him
Enough about Ray for a second. Lets take a look at all the great players the Knicks have to help him lead this team to the playoffs.
We all know Amare Stoudemire is a stud down low—averaging 24.1ppg and 8.6rpg—but its the guys like Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and rookie Landry Fields who have to play consistently to keep the wheels chuggin' on the Knicks' train. Chandler and Gallo are both averaging over 15ppg and Fields has surprised everyone by averaging about 11 points and seven rebounds.
Felton can be Michael Jordan reincarnated, but if they guys don't show up to play every game, fans can expect another lackluster year.
11. The Eastern Conference Is Not Very Good
During the Knicks awful stretch, the Eastern Conference has been a much weaker conference than their counterparts in the West. The East has improved a bit, but it still isn't on the level of the West.
This season, the Knicks sit at 10-9, seventh in the Conference behind the Heat, Celtics, Magic, Hawks, Bulls and Pacers, but they are only .003 percentage points behind Indiana, who is 9-8.
Every team under the Knicks has a 7-11 record or worse. The last two playoff spots could possibly be occupied by teams with overall losing records. If the Knicks can't make the playoffs with the team they have in this weak of a conference, it is borderline embarrassing.
12. He Plays Every Game
It says a lot when you can perform at a high level in the NBA. But, none of that means anything if you can't stay on the court.
In Raymond's career, he has only missed a total of 11 games, never playing less than 78 games in any of his four full seasons as a pro. As a point guard especially, you need to play every game to keep the chemistry between you and your teammates.
So far this season, Felton has started all 19 games for the Knicks and after a slow start to 2010, the Knicks look as good as we've seen them since that last winning season in '99-'00.
13. He Will Only Get Better
Although he is an accomplished player with a good amount of games under his belt, Felton is only 26 years old.
He has already shown a vast improvement in all facets of his game this season, and with this being his first in a Knick jersey, he is only going to get better and better as the year progresses, which bodes well for the New York in the long run.
Felton is a very talented player already and he seems to work well in the Knicks style of offense, so the more experience he gets under D'Antoni and with his new teammates, the greater his contributions are going to be.
The longer this team is with eachother, they better they are going to play, which is why I am so excited that they are starting to string some wins together.
By mid-season, look for the Knicks to be at full force and looking like a team we haven't seen in New York for a long time. Felton may be the key, but it is going to take a solid group effort to keep this team on the right track.
Phil Lombardo is a Featured Columnist for the New York Knicks and New York Giants. Be on the lookout for more articles to come. Any comments/likes would be much appreciated, thanks!