New York Knicks: Five Reasons Raymond Felton Deserves to Be an All-Star
Thriving as a ballplayer in New York is more than simply surviving the onslaught of media attention without allowing it to neither swell nor diminish the player's ego.
There are also the hoards of savvy fans who know what players are supposed to do and let them know in no uncertain terms when they're not doing it up to New York standards.
In New York there's very little middle ground and no place to hide from the spotlight. Players flourish or falter, survive and thrive or crash and burn.
Raymond Felton came to New York and is enjoying the finest statistical season in this, the sixth year of his NBA career. Last season Felton led the Charlotte Bobcats to the playoffs for the first time in their seven-year history.
Last off season the Knicks gutted their roster in anticipation of needing salary cap space to sign LeBron James. After James announced he would take his talents to South Beach, the Knicks signed Raymond Felton.
Felton is one of the leading candidates for the most improved player award. Obviously, he will require more than a modicum of self-improvement to be considered for one of the highest honors an NBA player can garner, selection to the All-Star team.
In recent years the NBA has had an infusion of fine young point guards, and the competition in the East has gone from relative unknowns just three or four years ago to a star-studded cast which includes assist leader Rajon Rondo, rising superstar and MVP candidate Derrick Rose and the first pick overall in the 2010 draft John Wall.
Subsequent slides will outline why Raymond Felton has earned and should be selected for a spot on the All-Star roster.
Amar'e Stoudemire's Point Production
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Those who said Amar’e Stoudemire would be less effective without Steve Nash have been proved wrong.
However, like most centers and power forwards, Stoudemire is unable to create his own offense off the dribble from the perimeter. Stoudemire requires the assistance of a playmaker to get him the ball in position for him to score.
The fact that Stoudemire's scoring average this season is 4.3 PPG more than his career average is surprising.
The fact that Stoudemire is more effective with Felton then he was while playing with two-time MVP Steve Nash is remarkable.
For a point guard, being the All-Star means that a player makes his teammates better. Don't you think 4.3 points per game more than Stoudemire scored with Steve Nash counts as making your teammates better?
Mike D'Antoni's Point Guard Driven System
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Mike D'Antoni’s system is predicated on great point guard play. The Phoenix Suns, under Mike D'Antoni, were built to score a lot of points, and they made the playoffs in each of the four years D'Antoni was head coach.
Who played point for them again? Oh yeah, that Nash guy.
In the first two years of D'Antoni’s tenure in New York, the Knicks equipped themselves with proven scorers such as Zack Randolph, David Lee, Jamaal Crawford, Al Harrington, Quentin Richardson, Wilson Chandler, Tim Thomas, Nate Robinson and Danilo Gallinari. However, play at the point position was spotty at best.
The Knicks blew up those teams and are rebuilding around Amar’e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton. On paper this Knicks team has far less firepower than the Knicks teams of the past two years. The '08-'09 Knicks had eight players who averaged double figures for the season, and the '09-'10 Knicks had seven. Regardless of their firepower the two teams had a combined record of 61-103.
The 2010-2011 Knicks are vying for the sixth seed in the playoffs and playing better than .500 ball because Felton is a threat to score and to pass.
Mike D'Antoni’s seven-second, early pick-and-roll offense is more potent with a dual threat point guard because defenses must be concerned with the point guard’s ability to score and cannot sag into the middle, clog the paint for the cutters and cheat into the passing lane.
Without Felton’s All-Star caliber play the Knicks would not be contending for spot in the playoffs.
Ranking Among Point Guards In The Eastern Conference
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The Eastern All-Stars may carry three point guards, but they will not carry four.
The point guards vying for a place on the All-Star team are Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, Raymond Felton and John Wall.
Derrick Rose is averaging 24.6 points and 8.1 assists per game. He has carried the Bulls to the third-best record in the Eastern Conference without ever having his entire team intact. Rose is having an MVP type season and is sure to start in the All-Star.
Rondo is averaging 12.9 assists per game and has orchestrated the Celtics to the second-best record in the NBA, and the best in the Eastern Conference. However, Rondo's not quite as important to his team as Felton is to the Knicks. Rondo was injured for five games during which the Celtics went 4-1.
Felton is the second-leading scorer for the Knicks (17.5 PPG) as well as being third in the Eastern conference with 8.9 assists per game. Felton is more important to the Knicks than Rondo is to the Celtics because the Knicks require both his scoring and his playmaking to win.
John Wall is having a sparkling rookie season and is second in the Eastern Conference in assists with 9.3 per game, but Washington is 13-31. Wall’s play has not made them better, only more fun to watch.
Rose is a lock and Wall plays on one of the worst teams in the league. Rondo is having the All-Star caliber season because of all the assists but only averages 10.5 points a game, and the Celtics seem to do fine when he doesn't play. That makes Raymond Felton second-most valuable point guard in the Eastern Conference, and as such he should be named to the 2011 All-Star game.
A Defender On a Team That Plays No Defense
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Raymond Felton is second in the Eastern Conference in steals with 1.86 steals per game. Rajon Rondo is first 2.46 steals per game. As usual the statistics don't tell the entire story.
Rondo plays with '07-'08 Defensive Player of the Year and 10-time all defensive team selection Kevin Garnett on a great defensive team for a defensive minded coach. A great defensive team executing the designs of a great defensive coach makes every pass or drive to the basket difficult for their opponents.
Furthermore, when an offense of player is engaged with a good one-on-one defender in the post, they are vulnerable to sneak attacks from thieves marauding from the perimeter.
I do not say that Rondo does not put out great effort on the defensive end of the floor. However, defense is made easier when you're coach teaches it, your team believes in it and defense is the staple on which your team is built.
When Felton gets a steal it is because he is operating on his own and managed to put forth a defensive effort.
On a team where defense is an afterthought at best, Raymond Felton puts forth a great defensive effort every night. Felton is the best one-on-one defender on the Knicks roster and one of the best defensive point guards in the league.
Felton's effort and ability to excel on both ends of the floor makes him worthy of an All-Star berth.
Elevates The Play of His Teammates With His Leadership
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The Knicks are a very young team. After Amar’e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton, the four players playing the most minutes for the Knicks, Wilson Chandler, Landry Fields, Tony Douglas and Danilo Gallinari, have six years of experience between them.
The Knicks player with the most minutes played is Felton, who has played some 60 minutes more than Stoudemire.
Fields is a rookie, but Chandler, Douglas, and Gallinari are all having the best years of their young careers due to the on court presence and savvy of Raymond Felton. Felton is averaging over 10 points and three assists more than Chris Duhon did last year for the Knicks.
Felton's ability to dribble penetrate against defenses draws a second or third defender to him, leaving his teammates open for easy baskets.
Ask yourself, how is it that the Knicks go from having All-Stars (Zack Randolph and David Lee), one of whom has averaged over 20 PPG and 10 RPG per game for the last five years (Randolph), the '09-'10 Sixth Man of the year (Jamaal Crawford) and a host of scorers with names you know and losing, to having an Amar’e Stoudemire and four guys you never heard of being playoff contenders?
Answer: The sterling, all-around, All-Star caliber leadership of Raymond Felton.