Deron Williams. Chris Paul. Raymond Felton.
Believe it or not, these three point guards were consecutive selections at the three through five picks in the 2005 NBA Draft.
While Williams and Paul have progressed to have become consistent All-Stars, Felton has always been known as consistently good, but never great.
However, with Mike D’Antoni helping Felton maximize his potential in the Knicks offense, it’s a whole different story.
This season with the Knicks, Felton has elevated his game to transform into one of the Eastern Conference’s (maybe the entire league’s) best point guards, perhaps only still trailing Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo.
Rose is nothing short of amazing himself, being the best talent in a Bulls uniform since the great Michael Jordan. He does it all; not only a phenomenal scorer, he is also efficiently getting his teammates involved more so than in seasons past.
While Rondo leads the league in assists with a remarkable average, currently above 14 per game, the offensive talent all around him cannot be overlooked. Paul Pierce highlights a Celtics offense that also features sharpshooter Ray Allen and former MVP Kevin Garnett. It’s safe to say that Rondo has a fair share of efficient scorers to deliver the ball to on offense.
Felton, on the other hand, entered his first season donning orange and blue with a very unproven Knicks squad. There were questions as to whether Amar’e Stoudemire would be just as good without Steve Nash as a teammate.
Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari, two of the only holdovers from last season’s sorry Knicks squad, were beginning to feel the pressures of their team expecting breakout seasons from them both. Landry Fields, a rookie who was unexpected to be drafted at all, was named the Knicks’ starting shooting guard to start the season.
And then there was Felton, the consistently good, but never “great” point guard who was expected to take control of that offense.
Part of being a good point guard is maximizing the talents and honing in on the skills of your teammates, and Felton has been doing just that. While one would argue he’s been Nash-esque while guiding Amar’e Stoudemire towards a MVP trophy, Knicks Hall of Fame point guard Walt “Clyde” Frazier claims Felton is playing…well, “Frazier-like.”
By any scale, Felton has been excellent. In addition to finally finding good chemistry with Stoudemire, he has also been an excellent backcourt mate for Fields, who has also found a nice flow into the Knicks’ offense.
As for Felton’s effect on the two holdovers? After being assigned to the bench to start the season, Chandler has found his shot on offense, often waiting in the corner for clutch three-point shots off passes from Felton. The Knicks’ point guard is able to drive to the lane more effectively than any point guard Chandler has played with in his young career. This means as soon as Felton draws a double team, he can dish the ball out to an open Chandler, who has been increasingly more confident taking the big shot.
Also waiting on the wings for a Felton pass Is Danilo Gallinari, the Knicks’ equally as impressive marksmen. It’s been Felton’s own individual offense, however, that has probably taken some pressure off Gallinari.
No longer expected to be a “star,” Gallo has finally begun to relax on offense. He has also been taking “risks" (compared to last season), as he can be seen driving to the basket more often, drawing the foul. It shouldn’t be forgotten that he also subsequently happens to be a league leader in free throw shooting as well.
A point guard who understands his teammates well can show immediate dividends, as evident in the early success of the Knicks. Though many first wondered how well Stoudemire would play without Nash, perhaps just as much credit should be given to Felton for Stoudemire’s stellar play this season.
Felton’s 11 double-doubles are among the league leaders, and are also six more than he had all season long last season with the Bobcats. Furthermore, while his 8.7 assists are not the double-digit numbers Nash produced under D’Antoni, it’s more likely that Felton is still capitalizing on his passing, while being asked to produce more on offense than a normal point guard in D’Antoni’s system. His 18.4 points per are not only second on the team, but also a career high.
In addition to outplaying Chris Paul during a Knicks win over the Hornets earlier this month, Felton also helped the Knicks overtake the playoff-contending Denver Nuggets with a 19 point, 17 assist performance. His next performance will be against Rajon Rondo and the Celtics Wednesday night.
Should Derrick Rose (or Rondo) be voted to the East’s All-Star starting lineup, at least two spots on the squad’s bench should be available for point guards, seemingly the latter of Rose/Rondo, and Felton.
However, if two shooting guards are voted in at the guard positions (as it sometimes happens), then Felton’s selection could be in jeopardy if Rose and Rondo are both forced to occupy bench spots.
Nevertheless, Felton deserves to be an All-Star. If Mike D’Antoni was able to elevate Nash into a MVP, who’s to say his style of coaching can't be credited for elevating Felton to All-Star status?
Based on Felton’s play and impact on the Knicks’ success thus far, he’s certainly on the right track.
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