Every media member and NBA fan has weighed in on the Jeremy Lin/Raymond Felton debate. We’ve even offered up our own two cents on the issue, but we wanted to wait until judgment day before having two of our writers with divergent opinions butt heads. With the clock ticking down to midnight tonight and the Knicks’ decision looming, one of the biggest free agent sagas of this offseason will finally come to a close. So, we ask: Jeremy Lin or Raymond Felton?
Today, July 17, 2012, Raymond Felton is a better basketball player than Jeremy Lin. Since Ray starts the season at 28 years old and Lin at 24, a few years of development (or a few years of gaining weight if you’re looking at it from the anti-Felton side) can change that, but according to the Knicks’ offseason strategy, a few years is a long time to wait. New York wants to win a title NOW, and the better option to make that happen is Raymond Felton.
The most glaring difference between the two is on the defensive side of the ball. Felton is as passionate and tenacious as they come. He might not set the world on fire, but he is a more than competent veteran defender who can be trusted on the floor at any point of the game. At this stage of their careers, Lin might be a tad quicker, but Ray always finds a way to keep his man in front of him and plays even better D in transition than he does on the perimeter. I’m not saying that he is a reliable post defender, but a bigger guard is much more likely to head to the block against Lin than Felton. Ray has always worn his heart on his sleeve and wouldn’t think twice about missing playoff games when claiming his knee is 85 percent healthy. And while we’re on the topic of injuries, I have a hard time believing that Lin will ever sniff playing a full 82 game season. The way he throws his body around in the paint is downright reckless, but because of his size he has to keep playing that way to be effective.
We all know the Knicks have enough offense, so what’s the point of adding a point guard who will command a maximum volume of touches? While I do believe that Lin is the better offensive option, and will only improve, I think it would be foolish to take those looks away from ‘Melo and Amar’e. Like everyone else in the league, New York’s dynamic duo needs someone to take the scoring load off of them, but J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert (once healthy), Steve Novak, and yes, Raymond Felton are competent enough to get the job done without having to add Lin. Plus, at least Felton knows how to use his left hand. Some of the bigger perimeter-defending guards in the league were able to lock Lin down with relative ease last year, and I can promise you that Ray won’t find himself struggling to bring the ball up the court against Mario Chalmers at anytime over the next three years.
I’m utterly shocked at the droves of Knicks fans calling in to local radio stations to all of a sudden show interest in a salary cap that only Donnie Walsh has paid any attention to in the past 15 years. However, as much as ditching Lin for Felton is a financial move, it’s just as much a legitimate basketball move too. Ray Felton will play twice as much defense for half the price and is a battle-tested veteran who won’t have to set the team back by learning on the fly all year long. He may not be the better player statistically, but for right now, he’s a much better fit. Who would you want leading your squad into the playoffs, an unproven third year player with only 25 starts under his belt, or a trusty veteran heading into his eighth season who has wanted nothing more than to be in New York all summer? I applaud the Knicks organization for finally making a basketball move instead of signing the guy who will move the most merchandise. In a perfect world, both would be suiting up in blue and orange for the next few years, but if I could only have one or the other, I’m taking the proven vet.