Heading into the 2012-13 season, exactly who would be the top scorer for the New York Knicks wasn’t the subject of much suspense. It was going to be Carmelo Anthony, period.
But who would be second? Last season, it was Amar’e Stoudemire, but he started the season on the injured list. Jeremy Lin was third. J.R. Smith, off the bench, was fourth. And Tyson Chandler was fifth, and was more opportunity converter than scorer.
The answer so far has been Raymond Felton, in every sense.
The Knicks are 12-4, and Carmelo Anthony is averaging 26.6 points per game. Felton is second, at 15.1, ahead of Smith (13.6) and Chandler (12.2).
PPG is a lousy way to determine value, but it does speak to precisely where the team’s points are coming from. And incidentally, it hasn’t just been the points, but the shots, too.
Smith has the reputation for shooting at will, Felton is a point guard, yet in an identical number of minutes (532 apiece), Felton has 230 shots, Smith 189. Chandler is in the PPG discussion, but he’s taken just 101 shots. (He’s made 72 of them, which is ridiculous, but for another time).
The point is, we can argue whether it is in the long-term interests of the Knicks to have Raymond Felton take so many shots, or whether he’s likely to keep making threes at a rate he’s never made them in his career. But so far, it’s worked. The team’s offensive efficiency is tops in the league, and a huge part of that equation has been Felton shooting, a larger component of the team’s usage than anyone but Anthony.
So with the news that Felton has a bone bruise on his thumb, the Knicks have a fairly conventional point guard problem. Jason Kidd is still out with his back injury. If Kidd and Felton can’t go, Pablo Prigioni, who has played more than 18 minutes three times all season, will need to log heavy minutes at point guard. Considering the team’s offensive success is built, in large part, on avoiding turnovers, Prigioni’s turnover rate of 33.3% (!) is concerning, to say the least.
But Felton out means the Knicks need to find some scoring, too, and quickly. It is as if the Knicks are simultaneously without their point guard and shooting guard in Felton’s absence, having already lost their cover for any Felton injury.
Earlier this week, I had a discussion with Seth Rosenthal about whether Tyson Chandler or Jason Kidd is more important to the Knicks. The idea in either case was that we were discussing second-most important Knicks (after Anthony). But were we wrong to leave Felton out of the discussion?
We may soon find out.