The New York Knicks are a team full of problems, but their guard play is the cause of many of those issues. Raymond Felton’s struggles have been the most detrimental, because he is the starting point guard.
Felton was the Knicks choice to replace Jeremy Lin in 2012, when the team chose to let Lin sign with the Houston Rockets without getting anything in return. Last year Felton stepped up, averaging 13.9 points and 5.5 assists per game, but this year has been a different story.
Felton has missed 4 games due to injury, but he has dealt with a nagging hamstring injury since training camp. He also injured his hip. Coach Mike Woodson has said that Felton will probably never be 100 percent healthy this season, but it is not an excuse for his poor play.
This year Felton is averaging a career low 10.1 points per game, and shooting his worst percentage (40.1) since the 2008-2009 season when he shot 40.8 percent with the Charlotte Bobcats. That statistic excludes the lockout season in which Felton played 56 games for the Portland Trailblazers.
Felton’s defense has also hurt the team. Opposing point guards are scoring 19.6 points per 48 minutes while Felton is guarding them, according to 82games.com. Felton’s PER(player efficiency rating), which measures productivity by minute is 12.03. For perspective, Chris Paul’s PER is 27.47.
That is not to say the Knicks need Felton to be Chris Paul, but right now he is a well below average point guard offensively and defensively. The NBA is a guard driven league. The top contenders in the league have good point guards or transcendent players, like LeBron James, who can cover up the flaws of not having an elite point guard.
The Knicks struggles have once again landed Coach Woodson on the hot seat. A large portion of the salary cap is used on the front court, but the back court has been neglected. It does not help that Tyson Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire — two of the three high priced front court players — have been injured and inconsistent.
The 19-30 Knicks go into Friday night’s game against the Denver Nuggets 2.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. If the guard play does not improve, the Knicks will find themselves watching the playoffs, just a year after finishing second in the conference.