New York Knicks’ point guard Raymond Felton has the tools, but he must do it on a daily basis or he may not be on the floor at crunch time.
With three point guards in camp with NBA experience, who will be the last man standing?
As a former point guard, the one fact that remains clear regardless of the level of competition is no one wants to sit on the bench.
While looking at the Knicks success last season we must begin with the impact Pablo Prigioni brought to the Knicks starting unit.
Now Pablo isn’t someone who’s going to post flashy statistics, but he gives you 100 percent, 100 percent of the time. He is a pest on the ball and moves the offense which was stagnant last year often under Felton. He may have averaged only 3.5 points, 3.0 assists and 0.9 steals last season, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. In reality, he was a major part of the offense and his presence was essential for ball movement.
The most impressive number one must look at is New York’s record when he was in the lineup as a starter. They went 16-2 in those games, including a truly dominant 13-game win streak. Often last year, the Knicks started off very slow, couldn’t get into an offensive flow. Pablo changed that late in the year and offered a dynamic Felton just didn’t provide. And at only six feet, and a defensive liability they should not play in the back court together. All that will do is stunt Iman Shumpert’s growth, and if Shumpert’s doesn’t produce early he will be trade bait so he better be watching his back.
The secret could be Beno Udrih.
Udrih is a good backup point guard whose salary was a steal for the Knicks. He showed in Orlando, he is ready for a larger role. He didn’t come here to be the No. 3 point guard. Don’t kid yourself, he is a competitor. He’s a younger, more athletic version of Prigioni who can break down a defense and make plays off the pick-and-roll.
He can bring a sense of leadership that Felton must either bring or learn from on the bench. Udrih is a two-time NBA champion, having won with the San Antonio Spurs in 2005 and 2007. I love his team first attitude.
“I know what it means how to win,’’ Udrih told the New York Post. “Last year’s team got a taste of winning and had bad luck vs. Indiana (in the second round). Tyson (Chandler) got sick — a lot of injury problems. We have to stay healthy all year and it’s good we have a deep team. Some guys can get time off and still get a win.’’
He will bring leadership and experience to the Knicks’ offense next season. The team needs a point guard who could keep the offense moving for better shots. It stalled all too often last season with too much reliance on Carmelo Anthony, late in the clock.
JUST NOT READY
So where does that leave Chris Smith and Toure Murry?
Murry, at 6’5″ and 190-pounds, last year helped lead Rio Grande to the NBA D-League Championship, averaging 8.3 points, on 45.6 percent shooting, with 2.8 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 1.61 steals over 23.5 minutes in 46 regular season games (30 starts). I watched him in every game this summer in Vegas, where he averaged 7.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.2 steals over 20.8 minutes in five games. He plays solid, Walt Frazier like defense, and should be stashed in the D-league, if Felton falters, he could work with Prigioni and Udrih.
Chris Smith, 6’2″, 195-pounds, averaged 5.0 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists over 19.9 minutes in five games for the Knicks team in Las Vegas. The problem was his shooting was poor; he often turned over the ball and probably would not have been signed if it wasn’t for his brother. Smith, who helped Louisville reach the 2012 Final Four needs to work on his game and needs to excel this year in the D-league or the closest thing he will get to the NBA is the tattoo (nice gesture) of his brother on his back.
The point is this. The point guard is germane to win in the NBA this year. Oklahoma City was lost last year once Russell Westbrook went down. San Antonio would not have almost defeated the Heat without Tony Parker. He literally took over the game when the game was close. He was so disruptive he was often covered by LeBron James.
So Felton better watch his back or their will be a new point guard starting for the Knicks by the end of the season.
Dr. Eric Kaplan is a Best Selling author www.drerickaplan.com