Point Man: Is Raymond Felton the Knicks’ Problem?


From new Buckets writer, Joshua Sage, a post on how perhaps one of the reasons we lost to the Hawks was due to Raymond Felton.

The New York Knicks five game winning streak came to a halt yesterday at the hands of a troubled Atlanta Hawks team.  A Hawks team that looks like it’s in route to another disappointing playoff exit, but hey, at least Atlanta will be in the playoffs.

The Knicks trailed throughout the game, showed little defensive prowess, played selfishly on offense, and failed to win over their home crowd, which booed like they were getting payed for it.

New York once again lost the assist battle, only four times this season have the Knicks had more assists then their opponent. They were also out rebounded for the tenth time. So far this season, no Knick is averaging double figures in rebounds or assists.

The loss of David Lee has sorely affected the Knicks ability to keep opposing teams off the boards and muster up any second chance points. Another issue in NYC are the point guards, who look to just score, score, score. Ideally, Raymond Felton should be a quality veteran backup point guard, with a true floor general leading the starting five.

Felton has scored 20+ points 6 times this season, and 30+ just once. That’s the same number of times that Danilo Gallinari has scored at least 20 and at least 30 in a game so far this season, even though Felton routinely takes about 10 more shots per game then Gallo. Felton has only attempted 5 or more free throws in a game four times. Gallo on the other hand has attempted 6 or more free throws in ten games thus far this season. Raymond has eight games with 4 or more turnovers, and six games with 10+ assists. He had four assists and three turnovers in the loss to Atlanta, going 8-16 from the field with no free throws. He really needs to keep his turnovers down and attempt to hit the 10 assist mark more often.

With so many bad teams in the East, the Knicks have a chance to make the playoffs but not if they only have one 20 point per game scorer, not if their point guards routinely take more shots then Gallo and Wilson Chandler (who are more effective scorers) and not if their starting small forward, the supposed savior of the team, is only taking 6 shots a night.

Three seasons into Mike D’Antoni’s tenure as head coach, the run & gun coach that relies so heavily on great point guard play, has yet to see his GM Donnie Walsh draft, trade for, or sign a great point guard for Mike’s offensive system. Raymond Felton, while a productive guard, is a scoring guard NOT a point guard. He shoots first and passes second. Felton’s backup Tony Douglas is worse, he shoots first and only occasionally attempts a pass. Douglas is only averaging 2.1 assists per game this season. These types of guards are not suited for Mike’s system, a great passer who makes excellent split second decisions is needed. Raymond and Tony would be better suited for a Stan Van Gundy type of offense, as seen during their run to the finals in 2009, with Gallo playing the role of Hedo Türkoğlu. Yeah, I know, Hedo stinks now, but he played very well in that system and was vital to their finals run.

Their are two ways the Knicks can garauntee themselves a playoff spot. One, have two players average 20+ points per game for them throughout the season, blowing out enough teams to land a playoff birth. The second option is to land an elite point guard that can be the floor general the Knicks need and make everyone better. Their is actually a third option, involving hiring a coach that can turn the Knicks into a quality defensive team, but even if they fired Mike D’Antoni today, I highly doubt that the team can learn a defensive system in time for the playoffs.

Since bringing in a new coach this season isn’t the answer, nor is it plausible that Donnie can land an elite point guard this season, unless he’s willing to give up young talent for Steve Nash if/when the Phoenix Suns should falter, then the only option is for Mike D’Antoni to give Gallo more touches per game, run the offense more through Amar’e/Gallo and force Felton to take less shots.

While New Yorkers’ expectations of Gallo are far too high, he has shown the ability to be a consistent 20 points per game scorer, who can get to the line and put the opposing team into foul trouble. He’ll never be Dirk, he doesn’t have his skill set or agility. He sure as hell will never be Larry Bird, who could score, rebound and pass the ball with excellent skill and poise. Gallo can however become a quality 20ppg scorer, a star in a supporting role, that can lighten the load on Amar’e and help the Knicks make the playoffs, which is all they can ask for right now until another key piece of the puzzle arrives.

With his three point shot, and ability to get to the line, I actually believe Gallo can one day become a 23-25 ppg player if he can just develop a go-to-move at midrange. Perhaps that step back jumper he’s been working on is the key. Though he really has to stop using that move from beyond the arc!

The Eastern Conference playoff landscape is weak, so the Knicks can make the playoffs this season, so long as they figure things out sooner rather then later. The Bucks, Heat and Bobcats have all stumbled out of the gate. The 76ers, Pistons, Raptors, Wizards and Cavs are all bad teams. If their was ever an opportunity to make the playoffs, it’s this season, it’s now. The clock is ticking New York.