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The Curious Case of Raymond Felton

By Jared Dubin
Follow me on Twitter: @JADubin5


Much like his predecessor as point guard of the New York Knicks (Chris Duhon), Raymond Felton started off this season with very strong play, posting the best numbers of his career. In the first month of Duhon’s Knick career, he posted averages of 11.4 points per game on 43.6% shooting and 8.6 assists per game, followed by 13.3 points per game on 41.4% shooting and 8.9 assists per game in the second month. Duhon did all this while averaging 40.3 and 39.7 minutes per game, respectively, in the first 2 months of the season. By the end of the season, he had clearly worn down. In February of the same year, he averaged 10.3 points per game on 38.9% shooting and 7.5 assists per game in 36.0 minutes and by March those averages had dipped to 8.1 points on 38.1% shooting and 5.4 assists per game in 33.7 minutes a night.

Similarly, in his first month as a Knick, Felton averaged 18.6 points per game on a would-be career-high 47.5% from the field and 8.6 assists per game in 38.1 minutes. The second month of his Knick tenure was another stellar one as her averaged 17.8 points on 41.4% shooting (already the decline was coming) and 10.2 assists per game in 40.8 minutes a night. The high minute totals have seemingly already had an effect on Felton, as his January numbers dipped to 16.2 points per game on 38.2% shooting and 8.8 assists. That includes a 9-game stretch where he shot under 50% from the field in every game, and just 31.2% overall. His 3-point percentage has gone down with each successive month, from 36.7% in November, to 33.3% in December, and 32.8% in January. Obviously, it is far too soon to conclude that he will experience a Duhon-esque fall off a cliff in February and March, but it’s definitely concerning.

Felton’s poor shooting has allowed defenders to sag off him on the pick-and-roll, which has led to ineffective stretches for Amar’e Stoudemire and Wilson Chandler. Chandler, not surprisingly, broke out of a prolonged shooting slump in the same game that Felton broke his string of 9 consecutive games of under 50% shooting. By sagging off of Felton, defenses have been collapsing on Amar’e, and that’s why his string of consecutive 20+ point games was snapped at 26 in a horrific effort against the San Antonio Spurs. The Knicks are 9-5 in games where Felton shoots 50% or better from the floor, and 14-16 when he doesn’t, indicating just how important his shooting really is.

Playing Felton for fewer minutes would probably ease the playmaking and creating burden on him, but unfortunately for the Knicks, backup point guard Toney Douglas is rarely capable of running the offense when Felton is out. Douglas’ level of play has also dipped each month, and as a result he’s shooting just 39.4% from the field. He seems to be much more of a shooting guard than a point guard. Douglas especially struggles on the pick-and-roll, which is the play from which all else in Mike D’Antoni’s offense flows. This obviously presents a big problem, and the offense normally fails to establish any semblance of a rhythm with Douglas manning the point.

I'm not in any way saying Felton isn't a good player or that he hasn't been good for the Knicks. On the contrary, I'm extremely satisfied with his play so far. I'm just saying, we've seen this before. A point guard has come in and put up career numbers for a stretch before dropping off. I don't anticipate Felton turning out like Duhon, mostly because he went to UNC and not Duke, but it could happen. That said, his poise and leadership are a huge reason why the Knicks are in the playoff picture right now, and they arguably (definitely) wouldn't be there without him. What I am saying is that the Knicks should make a move for a backup point guard who can run the pick-and-roll and shoot it well from the outside in order to both ease the burden on Felton and make it easier for the second unit to get baskets. 

2 comments:

  1. Doesn't everyone who didn't go there universally hate Duke? UNC puts out high quality pros while Duke players generally don't go on to have as good of pro careers as they did in college. Remember UNC put out Jordan, Worthy, Jamison, Rasheed, Vince, Perkins (Sam) and Stackhouse, among others, in the 80s and 90s. Duke was busy sending guys like Bobby Hurley, Christian Laettner, William Avery, and Josh McRoberts to the pros, while others like Shane Battier, Shelden Williams, and J.J. Redick just aren't as good in the NBA as they were as college players, even if they are solid contributors. Grant Hill, Carlos Boozer and Elton Brand are somewhat exceptions to the Duke rule.

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