Over the course of the offseason, Buckets Over Broadway will be doing year-end report cards of the New York Knicks roster. The roster experienced a decent amount of overhaul this season, so we’ll simply be covering the core players of the 2012-13 team. Players will be analyzed by their offense, defense, and overall contributions throughout the season. Next up is Raymond Felton.
Offense: Raymond Felton’s two best offensive seasons have come in a New York uniform. The first time around in 2010-11, he only lasted half the season; however, in his second stint, Felton got a full season and nearly full-time responsibility as the initiator of the offense. His baseline stats were pretty decent: 13.9 points, 42.7% FG, 36% 3FG, 5.5 assists, and 2.3 turnovers per game. He scored the ball better, shot the ball better, and took better care of the ball than his overall career stats. The numbers won’t blow most people away, but they do indicate that Felton had a solid overall season.
According to NBA.com/Stats, however, Felton’s impact on the offense was the greatest of any member of the Knicks. With Felton on the floor, the Knicks had a 111.1 Offensive Rating, versus a 105 Offensive Rating with him off the floor. The Knicks’ offense continually clicked when Felton was able to penetrate the lane in the pick-and-roll, score at the basket, or dish out to shooters. Where Felton fumbled most often was his shot selection. He too frequently settled for deep pull-up jumpers in the pick-and-r0ll when defenses sagged off of him. This was especially the case earlier in the season. In November and December, Felton averaged a combined 16.6 field goal attempts per game while only shooting a combined 39.7%. He improved those numbers to 10.5 attempts per game and 45% FG from January through April.
In the playoffs, Felton had a stretch as simply the best player in a Knicks uniform. In the first round, Felton dashed into the lane, carving Boston’s defense, finishing at the basket, or connecting from any location on the floor. He scored 17 points per game on 47% FG in the first round, captaining New York’s offense to a first round defeat of the Celtics. In the second round, he cooled off, often swallowed by Indiana’s traps and George Hill’s pesky length on defense. His offensive majesty was too good to hold up, but it highlighted an overall beneficial season for Felton and the Knicks.
Defense: Felton falsely came into New York with a reputation as a ball-stopping defender. The fact of the matter is, for his career, Felton has a 109 Defensive Rating, according to Basketball Reference. Felton is fast with the ball end-to-end, but he’s not as laterally quick as many point guards in the league. He gets hung up on screens or goes underneath them at questionable times, leaving shooters open or allowing them to get into the lane. Over the course of the season, numerous point guards lit the Knicks up for big performances, none bigger than Steph Curry’s 54-point outing on the Knicks in February, as he torched Felton all across the court.
The Knicks had a 101.2 Defensive Rating with Felton off the floor, versus a 105.1 Rating with him on the floor, thus indicating Felton’s general ineffectiveness on defense. Of course, some of it wasn’t Felton’s fault. The Knicks’ defensive schemes were often frustrating to watch. The Knicks switched like mad on screens, creating avoidable mismatches that put individual defenders in bad positions. Felton isn’t a an all-world defender, but the Knicks also didn’t put him in a position to win.
Overall: The move to bring Felton to the Knicks in the summer of 2012 was a controversial one. The Knicks effectively replaced Jeremy Lin with Felton, who was coming off his worst season in the NBA. However, for a good chunk of the season, Felton proved to be the point guard the Knicks needed. He was successful in the pick-and-roll, knew when to defer to guys like Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith and when to keep the ball for himself, and most of all, his teammates trusted him. He was especially effective with another point guard on the floor, which lessened his need to create all of the time and act as the only ball-handler. At 28, turning 29-years old, it’s reasonable to think that Felton can keep this play up for two more years and take away the worry or need for another starting point guard for the immediate future.