What has become apparent to most NBA fans, but evidently not so to the Knicks front office, is that this is a point guard league. These floor generals are enjoying a similar surge in importance and production as their football counterparts under center. While just having a really good point guard does not mean success (just look at the Cavaliers record since they drafted Kyrie) having one goes a long way in swaying games and playoff matchups.
The Knicks are one of five upper echelon teams in a top-heavy Eastern Conference and arguably have the worst point guard of the five. Unless you have a Skip Bayless level of ignorance it is safe to assume that all can agree that Derek Rose and Deron Williams are head and shoulders above George Hill, Mario Chalmers, and Raymond Felton (not saying Williams and Rose are equals, just that they’re better than the other three).
While one can debate if Felton’s offense is really worse than Hill’s or Chalmers’s the same can not be said on defense. Last season Felton had a defensive rating of 108 — four points worse than Chalmers and six worse than Hill. In addition, according to 82games.com, opposing point guards posted a 19.7 PER and averaged 23.8 ppg and 8 apg with a .520 Effective field goal % per 48 minutes.
Hill gave up a 13.7 PER and 19.7/8 on .455 efg and Chalmers a 15.5 PER with 19.6/7.8 and .509 efg. Both of these marks are undoubtedly better than Fetlon’s. Considering the Knicks are at their best with their small ball lineup it is a real issue when point guards can routinely get to the paint, forcing Chandler to come over and help, which allows other passing lanes to open and no other big men to cover things up. In the playoffs for the Knicks last year, both Bradley struggling in games 1-4 and Felton’s issues for the entirety of the Pacers series highlighted just how damaging it can be to have a point guard that can’t get into the paint and create for his team.
Offensively, Felton wasn’t great either. He averaged 14.8 points and 5.8 assists per 36 minutes with a very pedestrian 42.7 fg%. His efg% was a not-great 48% and his PER was a barely above average 15.2 (15 is average for an NBA player). The truth is the Knicks are getting below average production defensively and about average offensively from their starting point guard.
Maybe Raymond Felton really is better than Mario Chalmers but the difference is the Heat have Lebron James and Dwyane Wade who, when healthy are better than anyone on the Knicks.
In the regular season you can win 50+ games, like the Knicks did, with a point guard like Felton because there are so many different variables that go into how a game goes throughout the season. In the playoffs though teams prepare specifically for one team and know the strengths and weaknesses. That’s when Felton’s deficiencies become glaringly obvious. If this team wants to be more than a second round exit type of team, improving on the point guard position is a must.