The New York Knicks have played without starting point guard Raymond Felton for 11 games. It has not been a good showing, as New York has gone 5-6 after a blistering 20-8 start.
Through the first 28 games, here is a look at the Knicks’ numbers:
- 26 in the restricted area: 57%
- 5 in the paint: 33%
- 23 mid range: 40.5%
- 7 corner threes: 40%
- 21 above the break threes: 39%
- 21.5 free throws attempted
Now, here are the numbers in the 11 games without Felton:
Shot breakdown per game:
- 23 restricted area: 57%
- 8 in the paint: 33%
- 24 mid range: 42%
- 7 corner threes: 36%
- 20 above the break threes: 37%
- 21 free throw attempts
When comparing the two segments of the season, there are some fairly obvious observations to be made. As you could tell by the win/loss record, the Knicks were better through the first 28 games. They had a net rating of +6.9 compared to a net rating of +3.3 in the following 11 games. The majority of the drop in their net rating was due to a drop in offensive efficiency during the last 11 games without Felton.
The shot distribution was only slightly changed with New York taking less shots in the restricted area during the no pudgy point guard section. The main difference in the efficiency comes from a 4% drop off in corner threes and a 2% drop off in above the break threes.
Part of that can be attributed to Felton’s ability to attract the defense running an effective pick and roll with Tyson Chandler, thus creating a better quality shot for the surrounding players — but some can also be linked to the natural regression of the Knicks three point shooters not named Carmelo Anthony, who has continued to avoid regressing to his career tendency.
Despite still shooting 42% from three on the season, you can see the difference in Melo’s three-point percentage with Ray on the court verses when he is off it. Melo shoots 48% from behind the arc playing with the North Carolina product and 37% when his isn’t.
New York has been playing at a slightly slower pace without Felton and, as expected, the AST/TO ratio was better while he playing. The Knicks have rebounded better offensively without Ray also, but I think that is more likely due to an uptick of Chandler smashing the ball towards half court repeatedly than anything with Felton.
To be filed away in the unfortunate category, the Knicks drop in play started to occur before Felton mangled one of his extremities.
In the last six games he took part in, New York went 3-3.
Granted Carmelo Anthony missed two of these games and if you use just the four games he participated in the net -.9 goes to a net +1.6, but the numbers are pretty similar across the board.
It’s also important to remember during this time Felton was playing injured because both of his hands had been beaten like he played the game slaps for three straight hours.
Not all of the Knicks woes are going to be solved by the return of their starting point guard – hopefully on Saturday when they face the 76ers - but they should get better.
The question of how much better hinges on New York showing a commitment to defense that hasn’t yet been shown. While the offense might not be top five level good on a consistent basis, when they shoot a quality percentage from three, it will rise to that tier. On night’s when there are no three fingers to the dome or discount double checks can they lock down defensively to keep piling up the wins?
The answer right now is no. Injuries or no injuries, the Knicks have had four chances in the last two weeks to prove they could win that type of game – Boston, Indiana, Chicago and Brooklyn – four chances and four failures.
For the Knicks to finish this season as a top four team in the East, a slight identity shift is needed. Even with Felton, New York’s offense won’t run as smoothly as it did for the first month or so of the season. The defense, which is currently ranked 15th in defensive efficiency, needs to improve to account for the drop in offensive efficiency. This is the way for the Knicks to make sure it can secure itself the number two seed in the East.