Nash is the best talent of the three, but the Knicks’ ability to afford him, as well as placing him alongside an equally mature Jason Kidd, was of concern.
Lin brought "Linsanity" to the Garden, but the obscenely large contract offered by the Rockets was something the Knicks weren’t willing to match, no matter what the forgone marketing opportunities ended up being.
Ultimately, Felton was deemed to be the best fit in regards to cost (more than $4 million cheaper than Lin or Nash in 2012-2013) and play. Whoever made that decision was right on the mark.
Regular Season Stats:
Felton: 13.9 PPG, 5.5 APG, 43-36-79%, 15.2 PER, 68 Games Played
Lin: 13.4 PPG, 6.1 APG, 44-34-79%, 14.9 PER, 82 Games Played
Nash: 12.7 PPG, 6.7 APG, 50-44-92%, 16.0 PER, 50 Games Played
Due to Nash’s health issues, this debate turned into more of a two-horse race.
At age 39, Nash was featured in a mere 50 games this season and proved to be a shadow of his former MVP self. Posting his lowest assist per game average since the 1999-2000 season, Nash’s age appears to have finally caught up with him.
Statistically, Felton and Lin may not be very far apart. In fact, they are eerily similar in all major categories. Felton has a slight edge in scoring and efficiency while Lin holds the advantage in assists. Overall, there is no real difference in their numbers this season.
Due to their lack of assistance in separating Felton and Lin, we will take statistics out of the equation for a minute. Felton has shown a superior ability to fit into the system that revolves around Carmelo Anthony than Lin did last season. You have to play to your strengths to win and ‘Melo is the Knicks’ biggest strength.
Maybe the most important point is that Felton seems to get along with Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks’ unquestionable star. In his lone season in New York, Jeremy Lin appeared to irk Melo with his need to control the ball.
One of the key ingredients to a high-functioning team in the NBA is how a team's players fit together. Lin has shown he’s not a perfect fit in Houston, bringing a lot of the same attributes to the table as Rockets star James Harden.
While Felton and Lin played fairly similar in the regular season, where the most major differences in the two begin to appear is in their performances in the postseason.
Raymond Felton: 17.3 PPG, 5.0 APG, 49-30-53%, 18.3 PER, 7 Games Played
Jeremy Lin: 4.0 PPG, 2.0 APG, 25-17-100%, -0.6 PER, 4 Games Played
Steve Nash: 12.5 PPG, 4.5 APG, 44-0-100%, 14.5 PER, 2 Games Played
Whatever doubt there was during the regular season, the playoffs have effectively ended the debate. With the Lakers and the Rockets falling short of advancing to the second round, it is clear that the Knicks made the correct choice of point guards last summer.
Felton and the Knicks are the only team out of the three still playing. While the Knicks were the only one of the three favorites to win their first-round matchup, Felton was one of the main reasons the Knicks advanced while Lin and Nash didn’t have much of an effect on their respective series.
Felton has filled more of an offensive role for the Knicks as points are harder to come by in the postseason.
Felton proved himself against the Rondo-less Celtics in the first round of the playoffs. He was able to up his scoring average against one of the so-called best one-on-one perimeter defenders in the NBA in Avery Bradley.
In addition to his scoring, Felton became more efficient, increasing his Player Efficiency Rating from 15.2 to 18.3. Felton was the only one of the three to increase his efficiency in the playoffs. Felton’s assist average has decreased, but that can be explained by his increase in scoring and also the Knicks’ greater reliance on isolation plays during the playoffs.
Contributing to Lin’s decreased performance in the postseason was his recent chest injury, causing him to miss two games in the series against the first-seated Thunder. The two games that Lin missed in Houston’s first-round series were the only two that the Rockets were able to win. That may not mean a lot in the big picture, but it has to mean something.
Nash was only able to play in two of the Lakers’ four postseason games this year. A healthy Nash would have given a much-needed boost to coach Mike D’Antoni’s offense after Kobe Bryant fell to injury.
Age absolutely was a factor in Nash’s health this season; something that was surely thought about when Glen Grunwald was constructing the elderly Knicks' roster.
Now that we know Felton is indeed the man for the job, his play going forward will help decide how far the Knicks are able to take their playoff run.
*Note all statistics from basketball-reference.com