It’s only natural to want to, what with Linsanity and the zaniness surrounding the Knicks’ decision to let him go and all the anonymous recriminations that happened in the press after the fact. Just the other night I caught myself comparing Lin to Felton when they went head-to-head. But I don’t think it’s productive. You just can’t learn anything all that helpful by doing it.
For the record I think Lin is the more talented player. I think he’s better now and, at 24, he’s still improving while, at 28 and in his 8th NBA season, Felton is what he is. But that doesn’t mean he was the right player for the Knicks and, with benefit of hindsight, it’s hard to argue with the Knicks decision to let him go. As of today the team is 19-6. The Knicks have only gotten off to this fast a start twice in their history and both of those seasons ended with championship parades.
I view this team as a classic “great chemistry team”. By all rights, a team with these particular players probably should not be this good but, for reasons that can’t be so readily explained, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I can look at the stats and explain to you what the Knicks are doing well to win so many games. What I can’t explain is why, given their recent histories, these particular guys in this combination are able to do these things.
And that’s why it isn’t helpful to compare. Maybe Lin is a better player than Felton. Maybe he’s going to get even better still. But that doesn’t mean that the Knicks would be a better team if they had him here in Felton’s stead.
Personally, I don’t think they would be. I’m skeptical that the disparate parts and unlikely contributors on this roster would have fomented into the well-oiled offensive machine we see today had it been Lin in training camp instead of Felton. And I suspect that Melo would not have been able to shake off whatever misgivings he had about Lin and become the small-forward-turned-power-forward-killing-machine that’s propelled this team forward all season. The Knicks would probably still be a good team, but I doubt they’d be this good, because whatever is going on with them is bigger than simply having the best talent.
So while I certainly understand the urge to compare the young point guard many of us loved to the somewhat maddening point guard we have now, we should try to remember that the Felton-led Knicks are sitting pretty atop the Eastern Conference. And sure, Ray hasn’t been bringing as much to the party lately, but then maybe the party never happens at all without him.