New York Knicks: Why They’re Struggling Without Raymond Felton
When the New York Knicks signed Raymond Felton last July, it was one of the most oft-panned moves of the offseason.
Felton had put up a horrible season with the Portland Trail Blazers and he looked vastly inferior to Jeremy Lin, who had excited America with his electric play five months earlier. It seemed like the Knicks were choosing to wallow in mediocrity with Felton, rather than pursue greatness with Lin, whose potential appeared to be limitless.
But as anyone who’s watched Felton can tell you, the decision to pick him over Lin is looking better and better with each passing week. Felton is not an especially flashy point guard and he’s not going threaten for an MVP anytime soon, but he’s quietly effective player who does a great job running the Knicks offense.
Most notably, Felton knows his role. he understands that Carmelo Anthony is the star of the show, and tries to get him involved as much as possible (which isn’t too hard since Melo is great at creating his own shot). At the same time, he’s not afraid to take shots himself and at times, he’s been able to be a major scorer for the Knicks. When Anthony has missed games and the Knicks needed extra offense, Felton was not afraid to the enter the fray. He’s not spectacular, but he’s very good at doing exactly what is required of him and being a silent leader.
Now, however, Felton is out with a fractured finger and, while according to ESPNNewYork.com he won’t need surgery, he’s expected to miss four to six weeks.
Playing without Felton has been a difficult adjustment for the Knicks, to say the least. The Knicks were very comfortable with Felton running the show and their attempts to get it going without him have been awkward and ineffective.
You might not expect this to be the case. After all, the Knicks do have Jason Kidd, who was one of the best point guards in the league for more than a decade. Would it be so difficult to just move Kidd back to his old position? Well, Kidd isn’t the player he used to be. He’s been an extremely effective as a role player for the Knicks, lining up to take all kinds of wide-open 3s, but he can’t handle having such an active role in the Knicks offense anymore. He’s not as quick as he used to be and he’s not a threat to break into the lane for an easy two. When Felton was finding him for wide-open shots, he had an easy time contributing, but now that so much of the offense is on his shoulders, it’s getting a bit much for the 39-year-old Kidd to handle.
It’s worth noting that with Kidd at the two-guard spot, he was succeeding on catch-and-shoot plays; Felton would him for an easy 3 and Kidd could just fire away. Now, he has to dribble into the shot, which doesn’t appear to be suiting him as well. Felton’s absence has served to remind us just how old Kidd is and would indicate that his early success came because Mike Woodson knew how to use him in a way were he could be effective without playing a major role as a creator within the offense. He could benefit from the shots without having to set them up himself. Without Felton, Kidd has to do a lot more on the court and he’s struggling to make the transition to his new role.
Luckily, this might not be a problem for too long. Anthony has enough talent that he is going to find a way to put points on the board. Additionally, the incredible defense of Tyson Chandler is solid enough to keep the Knicks in a lot of games. When you add the solid bench scoring of J.R. Smith and Steve Novak, the Knicks have a lot of ways to win even without the benefit of Felton driving their offense.
Still, the effect of the Felton injury is obvious when watching the Knicks play. Throughout the season, one of their stronger assets has been the excellent flow of their offense. They play as smoothly as anyone, seeming to always find the right player open at the right time. Without Felton, they’ve struggled to find those shots and they’ve had to work harder to put points on the board. The Knicks should be strong enough to overcome this and put up wins anyway, but the degree of difficulty will go up significantly without No. 2 around. He’s been the guy who sets everything in motion.
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John Hugar lives in Buffalo, where he is finishing up undergraduate work at the University at Buffalo. His work has appeared at 3 Shades Of Blue, The Classical, and Bleacher Report. He's been a Grizzlies fan since day one, during their time Vancouver and Memphis.