We haven’t talked about Raymond Felton in a while, so let’s discuss our favorite portly point guard. Felton is one of several returning Knickerbockers this season, yet of all of the men bound to be clad in orange and blue, Felton’s been one of the least-discussed. That’s not to say his name hasn’t surfaced at all; he made it to headlines by jawing about Paul Pierce’s jawing, and he also got some recognition for supposedly dropping some pounds this offseason. Do your thing, Raymond. However, none of these things necessarily hold much weight on the basketball court.
What does matter is that Felton will once again be handed the reins of the Knicks’ offense and will have some new faces to adjust to. He knows, of course, that Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith (arguably the real reins-holders of the offense) will get their shots, but he’ll have to get acclimated to the presence of Andrea Bargnani and Amar’e Stoudemire (both of whom will hopefully be healthy), while distributing the ball to guys like Iman Shumpert, Metta World Peace, Tyson Chandler, Kenyon Martin, and sharing the ball with fellow point guards Beno Udrih and Pablo Prigioni.
Felton will be tasked with running a Knicks offense that will be heavily relied upon, especially since, on paper, it appears their defense won’t be much better than last year’s 17th ranked squad in defensive rating. It’s safe to say Felton will have a lot on his plate this year!
When looking at the Knicks’ most played line-ups last year, it’s striking that Felton is in all of them. Whether they’re five-man, four-man, three-man, or two-man units — Felton is there. And each of these lineups all had positive net ratings, meaning the Knicks out-scored their opponents when these lineups were on the floor.
The Knicks had 11 different five-man lineups that saw 48 minutes or more last season and seven of them had positive net ratings. Raymond Felton was in five of these seven units. What also jumps off the page is that Jason Kidd was in four of these seven lineups. Kidd, of course, is no longer with the Knicks, instead coaching the
Stinky McStinkertons Nets across the East River in Brooklyn. Two of those four lineups involving Kidd did not feature Felton. This means that the Knicks are going to need more productive play from one of their other two point guards. This should be easy enough; Pablo Prigioni was incredibly effective during the playoffs, and Beno Udrih should have a positive effect on the court as Kidd’s replacement.
Nonetheless, Felton, as he’s admitted, will have to take on a larger leadership role with Kidd’s departure. He is the main ball-handler, the most respected point guard on the team, and the most likely to be vocal with his teammates. Furthermore, his presence on the court is equally as important, statistically. Last season, the Knicks scored more points; shot better field goal, three-point, and free throw percentages; rebounded more, passed better, and turned the ball over less when Felton was on the floor. Simply put, Felton’s 5.9 net rating was vital to the Knicks.
This season, Felton knows he will play just as crucial of a role with the Knicks on the court and off. We can discuss Carmelo Anthony’s offense, J.R. Smith’s hot-and-cold shooting, Andrea Bargnani’s impact, and more all we want — Felton remains a critical part to the team’s success.
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