From the moment the Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks rumors started to swirl I was of one mind: you give up whatever you must to get a player of his magnitude. Argue it any which way you want: that stars win in the NBA, that if you get the best player in a deal you’re getting the better end of it or that the Knicks needed to find a way to hang with James, Wade and Bosh. I argued it all of those ways and then some.
For the first time though, with the Knicks an ugly 6-7, I’m having real doubts. I’m not having the same doubts as everyone else I talk to, however. I’m not pining for Timo Mozgov, Wilson Chandler or Danilo Gallinari, although I miss them all. It’s Raymond Felton I long for. I’m not kidding when I write that I think about Raymond Felton every day.
If the Knicks could have kept Ray Felton out of that deal, I truly think things would be going differently. Felton proved last season that he is more than capable of doing for the Knicks what we are all praying Baron Davis can do. And Davis has the potential to do a whole lot. As Ben Detrick wrote in an excellent piece on Grantland last week, a healthy Davis can open up a lot for the Knicks. He moves Iman Shumpert to shooting guard where he belongs (as evinced by his fifteen shot first half at Memphis last week), puts Landry Fields in a backup 2/3 role, makes Toney Douglas a microwave scorer and tasks Mike Bibby with mop up duty. Right now every one of those guys is cast in a role one level beyond where his ability dictates. A real live NBA-caliber starting point guard sets all of that up. Baron Davis might be that guy. Raymond Felton is. He’s a much better fit. He’s as willing to pass as to shoot, which has never been Baron’s modus operandi. And if your fetish is chubby point guards, Ray has you covered there too.
Here’s what the Knicks got from Felton over 54 games last season: 17.1 points and 9.0 assists a game, bullish defense and pick-and-roll proficiency. At the moment the Knicks are getting 16.6 points and 5.5 assists a game from the point guard position. Felton was outdoing Shumpert, Douglas and Bibby combined over 48 minutes in 38 minutes a game.
What really haunts me is that he’s the guy the Knicks could have most easily kept out of that deal. While Gallo, Mozgov and Wilson Chandler were lithe young assets, Felton was coming out of an offseason where he was a free agent afterthought who had yet to prove he was capable of manning the point on a winning team. Joking aside, he’s always been overweight. There were questions about his ability to shoot the basketball. Plenty of Knick fans wanted Luke Ridnour - Luke Ridnour - instead. Raymond Felton has never been described as an “asset.” He’s just a good basketball player.
But the real proof the Knicks could have kept Felton - circumstantial of course - is what transpired after Felton was traded to Denver. After spending the last 28 games of the season sharing point guard duties with Ty Lawson, the Nuggets traded him for Jordan Hamilton (the 26th pick in the draft), ancient Andre Miller and a future second-round draft pick. Not a whole lot.
Do you think the Denver Nuggets would have passed on a chance to get Gallinari, Chandler, Mozgov, cash, two second-round picks and a first-round pick from the Knicks because they refused to include Raymond Felton, who plays a position where they had a younger, equally capable player in Lawson? They would pass on a king’s ransom because the Knicks refused to include a player who was later flipped for a late first-rounder who hasn’t played a minute this season and 35-year old Andre Miller? I doubt it.
Forget about Mozgov. Forget Chandler (which is easy since he’s trapped in China). And yes, forget about pretty, young Danilo Gallinari. It’s Raymond Felton who’d be the best fix for what ails the Knicks.
Now it’s stuck in your head too. Sorry.