Raymond Felton (right) has averaged 11.1 points per game this season on 37.6-percent shooting -- both career lows. (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
• Under the best of circumstances, Knicks point guard Raymond Felton is a perfectly serviceable player. This season, however, he's been decidedly less than that; through both his own struggles with inefficiency and the absence of Tyson Chandler, Felton has underwhelmed as the initiator of New York's offense and the first line of its team defense. He remains one of the few sacred pieces that head coach Mike Woodson dares not consider pulling from the Knicks' starting lineup, though David Vertsberger considers the hypothetical anyway in a post for Knickerblogger. Should the pass-first Pablo Prigioni be starting games for New York in Felton's place?
Felton’s a skilled player, without a doubt. However, his single greatest contribution to this team -- one that no other point guards on the roster can bring -- is his prowess in the pick-and-roll. Felton’s scoring ability from mid-range pull-ups and takes to the basket, combined with Chandler’s dominant rolling off the screen, has created a tandem that is tough to stop. So much so that it was a huge key in getting Carmelo Anthony catch-and-shoot looks last season and helped the Knicks finish with the third best offensive efficiency in the league.
Problem is, outside of this very specific attack, Felton doesn’t have a real edge over the Knicks’ next-best one guard: Pablo Prigioni … With Chandler out, there’s no reason to be playing Felton 34.4 minutes per game to Prigioni’s 19.9. Pablo has even developed a deadly pick-and-pop game with Andrea Bargnani, certainly not the weapon the Felton-Chandler P&R was, but a respectable placeholder.
• Further evidence that LeBron James hunts the right kind of shots.
• Which season-long statistical measures have empirically shown the most resilience from an initial 10-game sample? Or, to put it another way: Which early statistical trends are most likely to last?
• Beckley Mason provides an awesome, vivid account of Kyle Korver's pregame routine over at HoopSpeak. A snippet:
This is how Korver readies his jump shot, from the ground up. Everything Korver does gives the impression of a craftsman polishing and assembling different parts of a high-performance machinery, testing each aspect of the system to calibrate it just right for show time. Next Korver activates the flexibility in his legs necessary to be on balance when whipping around a curl screen. A series of lunges and band work engage small stabilizing muscles throughout his lower body.
[Al] Horford finishes his routine and heads in. There’s no one left on the court besides a few ball boys, three Hawks assistants, and Korver.
Finally Korver touches a basketball.
On a related note: Korver has made 55 percent of his three-pointers in half-court situations this season, per Synergy Sports.
• Before the Sixers' play takes a complete turn for the worst, pause for a moment to appreciate just how terrific Spencer Hawes has been this season.
• Essential reading here from Paul Flannery, who offers a much-needed human perspective on the tanking process. Through Arron Afflalo, Al Jefferson, Jacque Vaughn and Steve Clifford, Flannery explores the costs and particulars of consistent losing:
Just 28, Afflalo is not old in any conventional sense, not even by the standards of the NBA that fetishizes young players and potential more than experience and results. But on the Magic, he’s an elder statesman on a team where six of the Magic’s top nine rotation players are 24 years and younger.
"Sometimes that’s the reality of the situation," Afflalo said. "In my eyes, I expect to win no matter what team I’m on. I expect to be in the playoffs. I don’t care if I’m the first or eighth seed, I just expect to be there. Last year was a first for me and that was tough to handle. I don’t want to play basketball that way again."
• O.J. Mayo has shot incredibly well from beyond the arc to start the season, yet the Bucks' offense has collapsed whenever he's on the floor. Dan Sinclair investigates some related trends over at BrewHoop, including a wild disparity in free throw attempts when Milwaukee plays with/without Mayo:
Instead, a more surprising split jumped out. It would appear that free throws are also playing a major role. With Mayo on the court, the Bucks sport a free-throw rate of .188, which would tie the Portland Trail Blazers for 23rd in the NBA. With Mayo on the bench, the Bucks have an astounding .376 FTR, a mark that would eclipse even the league-leading Houston Rockets. Such a huge differential screams "fluke," and there's definitely some small sample size theater at play. But it is what it is for the moment, and it helps explain how the Bucks can be so good with Mayo riding the pine.