Which Raymond Felton is Heading to New York?
Late Saturday night, word broke that the New York Knicks had agreed in principle to sign-and-trade deal with the Portland Trail Blazers in which New York would send center Dan Gadzuric, forward Jared Jeffries and recent second-round draft pick Kostas Papanikolaou to Portland in exchange for point guard Raymond Felton and center Kurt Thomas.
The move was particularly shocking because it had long been assumed that New York’s matching of Jeremy Lin’s offer sheet from Houston was a forgone conclusion. However, it was previously assumed the Rockets were preparing to offer Lin a contract with only $19.5 million in guaranteed money. Yet rumors began to surface that Houston GM Daryl Morey was upping the ante, by presenting a true “poison pill” contract for the Knicks to sign, if they so choose, which would pay $14.3 million in the third season of the deal. When factoring in the luxury tax repercussions, it would certainly be a tough pill for owner James Dolan and the Knicks to swallow.
Saturday afternoon we learned that Lin had signed the offer sheet and it had been formally presented to the Knicks, which meant New York had 72 hours to match, or let Lin walk. Still, despite the prohibitive luxury tax bill the Knicks would face in 2015, most pundits still assumed Dolan and Knicks GM Glen Grunwald would eagerly match the offer sheet to keep Linsanity alive inside MSG. However, once the news of the Felton sign-and-trade began to spread, public opinion began to shift dramatically. With Jason Kidd already on the roster, why would the Knicks bring in a third point guard (Argentinean import Pablo Prigioni would sum to a total of four point guards)? Could it be that they plan to let Lin leave?
For the record, it would be a mistake for the Knicks to let Lin leave, but we’ll save that discussion and debate for another day. Moreover, speculating one way or the other regarding Lin right now is pure conjecture.
Let’s first deal with Felton in a vacuum. The question then is: Which Raymond Felton is heading to New York?
When Felton initially signed with NY as a free agent back in the summer of 2010, Knicks fans were excited to have a legit point guard on the roster, especially after Chris Duhon had been the team’s best floor general the prior two seasons.
And, Felton, who was coming off a disappointing season in Charlotte, performed extraordinarily well over his first 50-plus games in a Knickerbocker uniform. He played the best basketball of his entire career during that three-month stint under Mike D’Antoni in NYC. Felton started 54 games for the Knicks that season, averaging 17.1 points, 9.0 assists and 1.8 steals.
Coming into that 2010-11 campaign, the Knicks has posted nine consecutive losing seasons, but New York experienced some moderate and surprising success early on, including running off an eight-game winning streak in early December. Amar’e Stoudemire was playing like an MVP and Felton was drawing significant praise for quarterbacking a mini revival.
However, as the Knicks were busy keeping their heads above water and their record .500, out in Denver Carmelo Anthony was inching his way towards the exit. In a controversial move, the Knicks traded three-fifths of their starting lineup to the Nuggets in exchange for Melo; Felton was one of the players New York sent packing. Raymond was clearly disappointed in this turn of events.
Once he landed in Denver, Felton ended up splitting time with incumbent point guard Ty Lawson. Neither player seemed to enjoy the time share.
The following offseason, the Nuggets shipped Felton off to Portland in exchange for Andre Miller. Things only got worse for Raymond as he headed further west.
After the lockout was finally settled in December, Felton showed up for the Blazers training camp admittedly out of shape. He got off on the wrong foot on with Blazers head coach Nate McMillan. The coach and his point guard were never able to get on the same page. Over the first half of the season, Felton averaged just 10.2 points while shooting below 38 percent from the floor. Once McMillan got fired, Felton’s effort and intensity seemed to improve immensely (read into that what you will). Over the final 18 games of the regular season (post-McMillan), Felton averaged 14.4 points (46.3 FG%) and 7.7 assists.
Looking at the big picture, we have a significant “sample size” (to use the common parlance of the Linsanity era), with which to judge Felton’s career. In particular, his recent professional production.
When the sign-and-trade was agreed to on Saturday night, many Knicks fans were excited at the prospect of Felton returning to MSG, but are New Yorkers expectations outsized?
Looking at the complete body of work, not just his short stint under D’Antoni, Raymond Felton has proven himself to be an average (at best) starting PG in the NBA.
In the 80 games Felton played in Charlotte before coming to NY, he averaged 12.1 points & 5.6 assists for the Bobcats.
Since leaving New York, Felton has played a total of 81 games and has averaged 11.4 points and 6.5 assists in those contests.
All told, that’s 161 total games from which to draw data.
That’s the player the Knicks are trading for.
The terrific stretch and stellar numbers he posted under D’Antoni – that was the anomaly. The time since has been the expected regression to the mean. And, as we know, current Knicks head coach Mike Woodson is not D’Antoni. The slower pace preferred by Woody may not be a perfect marriage for Felton’s skill set.
Felton can certainly contribute on the NBA level, but his upside is limited. We are still waiting to find out what exact amount he signed for. Was it $18 million over four years, as some outlets have reported? Or is it the far more reasonable $10 million over three seasons? Once we have that answer, we’ll have a better understanding of exactly how to judge this sign-and-trade acquisition from a Knicks perspective.