Throughout the course of the season, New York Knicks fans found out just how important point guard Raymond Felton is to this Knicks team.
When the Knicks were at their best early in the season, so was Felton. He kept everyone involved and took excellent care of the basketball. The North Carolina product held the keys to the car and he had the Knicks’ offense running like a well-oiled machine.
However as the Knicks have struggled, so has Felton and he has turned into a part, though not a major part, of everything that is wrong with the Knicks’ offense right now.
The bottom line is that the ball isn’t moving. Felton’s assists are way down and he’s turning the ball over at an alarming rate. That’s simply not a recipe for winning basketball.
Let’s compare Felton’s performance month-by-month.
To begin the season in November, the Knicks went 11-4 during the month, largely due in part to the fact that Felton was a catalyst for the offense. Everyone was contributing and his numbers showed that by averaging 14.6 points, 6.7 assists and only 2.5 turnovers per game.
There were similar results in December as the Knicks went 10-5 during the month. Felton continued to play well, averaging 17.2 points, 5.8 assists and 2.2 turnovers per game.
But then he got hurt and missed 12 games with a broken pinkie and the Knicks’ offense hasn’t been the same since.
Even when Felton returned for the last three games in the month of January, the offense changed. It’s now based primarily on isolation and less on moving the ball and relying on Felton to make decisions and move the basketball.
In the month of February the Knicks went only 6-5 and Felton’s assists per game dropped to 4.9 while turning the ball over 2.5 times per game.
Now we get to the even more disturbing month of March when the assists have plummeted to 4.4 per game and the turnovers have skyrocketed to 3.5 per game. As a result the Knicks have gone just 4-4.
Felton has had only one game this month with more than four assists (10 at Cleveland March 4) and has four or more turnovers in four of the eight games, including a whopping seven against the Pistons on March 6.
That’s unacceptable from your point guard, so is the fact that Felton has only four games this season in which he has recorded double-digit assists.
To Felton’s credit, he is shooting 48.3 percent from the floor this month, clearly his best month of the season, but Felton is here to do more than just score and he isn’t right now.
His play has gotten worse and the Knicks have suffered because of it.
There are a couple reasons for the struggles.
One is because Mike Woodson has allowed this offense to run primarily on isolation. There is very little motion and movement in the offense and it takes away from Felton’s strength- the ability to penetrate and kick.
The other is the fact that Felton is playing with a lot of people who struggle scoring the basketball.
In the starting lineup, James White and Iman Shumpert aren’t good options offensively as they have both struggled from the floor. The Knicks aren’t going to dump the ball down to Tyson Chandler very often, so that means giving the ball to Carmelo Anthony and standing around and watching what ‘Melo does.
Then there have been the likes of J.R. Smith, Jason Kidd and Steve Novak.
Novak and Kidd have struggled from the floor and when Smith touches the ball it is another situation of standing around and watching him force up too many shots.
Felton had good chemistry with Amar’e Stoudemire, but now that he is out, there are very little other options for him to create for, which is why Felton is shooting more than creating.
There is also the inability of Woodson to go back to the pick-and-roll, where Felton excels, particularly with Chandler.
Chandler averaged close to seven field goal attempts for the first three months of the season, which is around the number where he should be at. But he is down to 4.4 attempts this month which is also unacceptable.
Felton has struggled for sure as the turnovers especially need to come back down, but it is more of a case of the system has changed on him.
No longer does he have the keys to the car.
If the Knicks are to have success the final month of the season, they need to get back to what worked. They have slipped to 29th in the NBA in assists, which means the ball is simply not moving.
It all starts with Felton.
Woodson has to put his point guard in better positions to have success or it will be another early summer.
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