In the summer of 2010, when the New York Knicks’ superstar chase was beginning to fade out with only Amar’e Stoudemire in hand, the Knicks turned their sights to other free agents. The superstar crop was mostly gone by this time, but some good role players still remained. The Knicks’ second big splash that summer was the acquisition of Raymond Felton – a signing I was absolutely thriled with.
Though Felton had been little more than a solid, if not unspectacular point guard through the first five years of his career with the Charlotte Bobcats, I just saw something in him that I liked. He routinely had his best games against the Knicks, posting averages of 19 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds per game against them in the 2009-10 season. I enjoyed his ability to briefly take over a game. I enjoyed watching a short man with a pudgy physique bolt in and out of the lane. And when he came to the Knicks, though he struggled at first, Felton was arguably the best point guard in a New York uniform in quite some time.
Let me remind you of how awesome Raymond Felton was:
Amar’e Stoudemire was not supposed to survive without Steve Nash; once chemistry developed, Stoudemire and Felton became the NBA’s hottest pick-and-roll duo as Stoudemire cruised to a streak of nine straight 30-point games.
Felton manned a ship of underdogs that became one of the league’s most efficient offenses.
Through the first two months of the season, when those Knicks were red hot, Felton averaged 18 points, 9 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals per game – nearly elite-level stats.
With rumors of the Knicks pursuing Chris Paul, Steve Nash, Deron Williams, Felton squashed them by out-playing Paul (17 points, 13 assists, 5 rebounds in a win), posting a triple-double in a win over the Suns, and out-playing Williams, as well (23 points, 11 assists, 7 rebounds).
Raymond Felton once claimed he wanted to be a New Yorker for life.
But the past season-and-a-half hasn’t been kind to Felton. He was shipped to Denver where he came off the bench behind Ty Lawson and struggled with his shot. On 2011 Draft Night, Felton was traded to Portland where he initially did well, but struggled with conditioning, and his season became disastrous.
Now, with Felton entering free agency (as the Blazers almost surely will not pick up his option), there have been rumors of Felton returning to New York. Much of this depends on how the arbitrator rules the hearing for the Bird Rights case for Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak – if the Knicks have to use their mid-level excpetion to retain Lin, then Felton is most likely not an option. However, if the Knicks’ MLE remains, then Felton may be a realistic option. But would he be a good fit?
The natural response would be yes. Any time you can acquire a PG as talented as Felton (even in his worst seasons, he’s hovered around an average starting point guard), to be a backup, it’s almost a must. But this New York Knicks team is a vastly different Knicks team Felton played so well with originally.
Gone is Mike D’Antoni’s fast-paced offense, that let Felton dash around the court with free will. Gone are the shooters like Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, the jumpshots of Landry Fields and Toney Douglas (RIP, jumpshots, respectively).
The Knicks under Mike Woodson play at a slower pace, which has never been a good fit for Felton’s game. Felton’s Bobcats usually played somewhere between a league average and slowest pace in the NBA, and this past season, the Trailblazers played at exactly 15th in the NBA in pace – about 94 possessions per game. Felton’s best season – his 54 games with the Knicks – came with Mike D’Antoni, where the Knicks were around the top five in pace. Likewise, the Knicks lack the spacing that Felton likes to utilize to drive into the lane and run the pick-and-roll with the big men. That space will especially be lost if the Knicks don’t bring back Steve Novak and J.R. Smith.
My love for Raymond Felton would swoon if he returned to the Knicks, but in complete honesty, there may be better fits.