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The Early Lead
Posted at 11:09 AM ET, 07/18/2012

Knicks let Jeremy Lin walk; could they be better without him?

In each of the last two seasons a New York Knicks point guard has averaged double figures in scoring and led the team in assists per game. Here’s a look at their respective numbers.

Player A: 14.6 ppg, 6.2 apg, 3.1 rpg, 3.6 tpg

Player B: 17.1 ppg, 9 apg, 3.6 rpg, 3.3 tpg

Player A is Broadway sensation Jeremy Lin, who is now on his way to Houston after New York failed to match the Rockets’ massive contract offer for the coveted free agent.

And Player B? Well, that would be Raymond Felton during his run with the Knicks in the 2010-11 season. The same Raymond Felton the Knicks brought back last week with the Lin situation still in flux.

Sure, Felton’s totals came from 54 games (all starts) for New York while Lin played only 35 in his injury-shortened season and started just 25 of those. And yes, Felton had the benefit of playing alongside a healthy Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire.

But when the dust settles and the screaming dies down in the Big Apple, is it at all possible that the Knicks could be a better team next season with Felton at the point?

Is Felton going to replace the team’s biggest marketing asset since the days of Patrick Ewing and John Starks? Of course not. By not re-signing Lin, New York will lose millions in ticket and merchandise sales and willingly gave a sizeable contingent of fans reason to become Houston Rockets fans.


Raymond Felton was at his best during a 54-game stretch in New York in 2010-11. (Frank Franklin II - AP)
Lin’s charisma, flair and Harvard-graduate-becomes-household-basketball-name fairy tale cannot be matched by a nine-year league veteran and a 39-year-old all-star in the twilight of his career (Jason Kidd).

But with Lin’s red-hot start last January, it’s easy to overlook his struggles alongside the team’s top two stars. In the 17 games in which Lin, Carmelo Anthony and Stoudemire all started, New York went just 8-9. It was when Lin was allowed roam free in the absence of Stoudemire, and, more importantly, Anthony, that he truly excelled in Mike D’Antoni’s point-guard driven offense. And it was after Lin went under the knife for knee surgery that Anthony’s scoring surge carried the team into the postseason.

Felton is a better defender than Lin and has proven his ability to facilitate in a pass-first role. And while he will likely never be an all-star caliber player, he can provide a steady hand at the point while allowing New York’s biggest offensive weapons to carry the scoring load.

It’s hard to argue that the Knicks wouldn’t be better off long-term with Lin at the helm, developing under the tutelage of an accomplished veteran like Kidd. But in the end, New York balked at the backloaded contract the Rockets gave a player they cut before last season. In truth, no one really knows what type of player Lin will be. He could be a perennial all-star or a complete flash in the pan. And the Knicks deciding it wasn’t worth the price to find out.

And if New York wants to win right now — as in next season — there’s a chance they could be in a better position to do it without Linsanity.

Not that that’s much consolation to Knicks fans right now....

What’s your take? Will the Knicks be kicking themselves for being too frugal or was this the right decision for the team?

Follow us: @MattBrooksWP | @CindyBoren

More

Jeremy Lin’s former coach, teammates surprised by his departure

Lin’s run with the Knicks could be over

Anthony: it’s up to Knicks to decide if they match ‘ridiculous contract’

Felton returning to Knicks, who have another point option if Lin leaves

Jeremy Lin causes Linsanity in the NBA

By  |  11:09 AM ET, 07/18/2012

Tags:  NBA

 
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