When Raymond Felton returned to the Knicks last season many people said it was a good move since he was a good starting point guard and a solid player. One season and a whole bunch of ill-advised shots later the percentage of people who still believe that has undoubtedly lessened. Felton wasn’t atrocious last year but in a league that is tilting towards guards play it was clear the Knicks needed an upgrade at their point guard position.
Despite the under the radar nature of the signing, the Knicks have made a potentially excellent move in bringing in point guard Beno Udrih on a one year contract for the minimum. Udrih may not be as well known as Felton but there is no reason to discount the possibility that he will steal the starting spot from the former national champion.
Last year for Udrih was really a tale or two seasons both offensively and defensively. He played very well defensively mixing time at both guard positions in Milwaukee and improved on the offensive end in Orlando. If he could combine the two for the Knicks this season there is no doubt he would take the starting spot away from Felton.
As a Buck, Udrih played very good defense. Per 48 minutes he held opposing point guards to a 6.0 PER and shooting guards to a 10.8 PER. Defense like this, especially in the backcourt, is desperately lacking from this Knicks team.
Raymond Felton held opponents to a 19.7 PER, or near All-Star level play last year. To be fair, Felton started and Udrih came off the bench as a Buck but the disparity is too big to just write off because of the different roles.
While Udrih did play worse defensively in Orlando, where he played a more prominent role on the team, he still held point guards to a slightly better than Felton rate at a 17.2 PER and shooting guards to 13.0. The Knicks 18th ranked defense was by far their biggest issue last year and the inability to stop point guards and guards in general was a huge reason why.
Offensively Udrih played much better in Orlando. He had a 14.9 PER (up from 13.6 in Milwaukee and about the same as Felton’s 15.2 on the season last year) and arguably out played Felton per 36 minutes.
Udrih put up 13.4 points and 8 assists per while shooting 86% from the line and about 40% from three. Felton 14.8 and 5.8 while shooting about 79% from the line and 36% from three. Udrih also had a slightly higher TS% at .512 compared to .505.
The one area where for his career Felton undoubtedly defeats Udrih in is assist percentage. Felton sports a good 31.5 for his career compared to Udrih’s 24.7. Last year however in both Milwaukee and Orlando, Udrih was dishing assists at a higher rate. For the entire season Udrih had an assist rate of 32.3 and Felton’s was 27.0.
Many Knicks fans can attest to Felton’s dip in assist rate as too often he would take shots early in the shot clock for seemingly no reason. With Jason Kidd gone the Knicks need to rely on their other point guards to run the offense and move the ball.
While some of Udrih’s Career numbers may not blow anyone away, his overall career and recent play in both Orlando and Milwaukee suggest that he is better suited to be the starting point guard for the Knicks in the 2013-14 season.
While it is difficult to predict how coach Mike Woodson will run his rotation one has to wonder how long he would keep Felton in the starting lineup if Udrih outplays him on the second unit. Udrih’s more accurate but less happy trigger finger may also be better for a crunch time lineup with both JR Smith and Carmelo Anthony.