Felton over Lin? Might be a mistake

Debby Wong/US Presswire

Jeremy Lin might not be playing in a Knicks uniform anymore.Are the New York Knicks making a mistake if they let Jeremy Lin go, and proceed with Raymond Felton as their starting point guard?

From a pure basketball perspective, the numbers say yes, they are.


Isolation Plays Last Season

Isolation plays are where Lin excels. He scored the third most points per play of the 91 players with at least 75 isolation plays last season, trailing only Chris Paul and James Harden. Felton ranked 68th.

Felton turned the ball over on isolation plays more than twice as often as Lin, who committed just six turnovers on his 93 isolation plays. And only Andrea Bargnani, Chris Bosh and Harden got to the free throw line more often than Lin on isolation plays.


Pick-and-Roll Ball-Handler Plays
Last Season

Among the 41 players who were the ball-handler on at least 200 pick-and-roll plays last season, Felton scored the fourth-fewest points per play. Only John Wall, Rajon Rondo and Jamal Crawford were worse. Lin, who ranked 26th, got to the free throw line nearly three times as often as Felton on those plays.


Despite shooting just 33 percent on catch-and-shoot jumpers last season, Lin shot 48 percent on jumpers off the dribble.

Highest FG pct on Jumpers off the Dribble
Minimum 90 FGA Last Season

Of the 102 players who attempted at least 90 jumpers off the dribble, only Stephen Curry and Steve Nash shot a higher field goal percentage than Lin. Felton ranked 85th of those 102 players, shooting just 33 percent.


Felton and Lin both passed the ball on most of their pick-and-roll plays. And both players’ teammates had nearly the same field goal percentage and points per play on those passes. Felton passed it to the roll men more often, while Lin hit the cutters and spot-up shooters more often.

Felton passed the ball more often on isolation plays than Lin, who was better at passing to cutters, resulting in a higher field goal percentage and more points per play by his teammates on those passes. But with Lin’s high efficiency on isolation plays, it may not be such a bad thing that he passes the ball on only 17 percent of his isolation plays.


Defense Last Season

So if Lin seems to be the better offensive player, for the Knicks to justify this move, they must think Felton is the better defender, right? That may not be the case.

Lin held opponents to fewer points per play and a lower field goal percentage (37.8) last season than Felton (41.6). Of the 235 players to defend at least 300 plays, Lin ranked 78th in fewest points per play, while Felton ranked 133rd.


Why is Lin better off with the Knicks than the Rockets?

Most Isolation Plays Last Season

Isolation plays are Lin’s bread and butter. He’s among the best in the league. No team had more isolation plays last season than the Knicks. Isolation plays accounted for 17 percent of the Knicks' offense, the highest such percentage in the league.

The Rockets, meanwhile, ranked 22nd in isolation plays, which accounted for just 9 percent of their offense. The Knicks had nearly twice as many isolation plays as the Rockets.


Based on the above analysis using Synergy Sports Technology, it seems that Lin would be the better choice for the Knicks. And Lin might not thrive in Houston the way he would in New York.