The Knicks have confirmed Raymond Felton, who has been sidelined for about five weeks with a broken right pinkie, will probably return Saturday in Philadelphia.
The team said it's expected that a doctor will first examine Felton's finger -- which shattered in three places but didn't require surgery -- before clearing him to play.
Mike Woodson hasn't said yet who will start against the 76ers, but he will likely go with Felton at point guard. When Iman Shumpert returned, Woodson immediately inserted him into the starting lineup. The first five could feature Felton, Jason Kidd at shooting guard, Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony at power forward and Tyson Chandler at center.
Although the Knicks have improved slightly defensively without Felton -- Kidd, Shumpert, J.R. Smith and Pablo Prigioni have done a great job locking down the perimeter -- they're clearly missing him on offense. When he was on the court, they were averaging 106.0 points per game. When he's been off it, they've averaged only 95.2 points.
The Knicks need Felton's attacking and deep-drive penetration to improve Chandler's looks as a roll man and the team's ball movement around the arc. Since Dec. 25, the ball has remained on one side too much, going through Anthony mostly in isolation. This has also forced Melo to expend more energy running pick-and-rolls and Kidd to play out of position at point guard. This season, at this point in his career, Kidd has been flourishing more in the offense as a 3-point shooter, extra-pass facilitator and transition starter.
Felton will also help the Knicks' transition game. They've been running more predictable half-court sets lately; in fact, they're third worst in the NBA in fast-break points per game (9.4). At times, with Felton pushing, Smith and Shumpert on the wings and Anthony and Chandler trailing -- Melo for the 3-pointer and Chandler for the dump down -- they'll be scarier after defensive rebounds.
Overall, having a legit point guard is everything to an NBA team these days, and Felton (15.8 points, 6.3 assists per game) should help fix some of their recent offensive problems. Not to mention, he'll allow Kidd and others to rest, relieving them of additional responsibilities. It's still only January and with half a season to go, that's important.
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