So I've been trying to talk myself into being okay with this trade that's probably going to happen, and it's been tough. I've been on record for a while now saying Carmelo is overrated, that he's not worth trading a lot of good young pieces for, that he should come here as a free agent or not at all etc. etc. I'm not trying to revive that discussion. It has been debated to death for months now and it doesn't seem like there's much to be done about it at this point, nor anything new to be said about the matter.
However, one thing that nobody anticipated is the swap of Raymond Felton for Chauncey Billups being a part of a deal for Carmelo. It seems from reading the comments that reaction to this has been all over the map, with some people saying "this is the last straw, no way I'm down with that" to others saying "well, at least getting Billups mitigates what is otherwise a total hosing."
That's a pretty wide difference of opinion, and it made me realize that P&T has never dedicated much discussion exclusively to Chauncey Billups and what we think of him and how he compares to Raymond Felton. Despite a strong <3 for Felton I happen to be pretty pro-Chauncey which is why it has made me sad to read comments trashing him as old or inferior or washed-up, etc. etc.
So without further ado, here are eight random thoughts about Chauncey Billups and why he is pretty good and why his inclusion in the proposed trade is the reason we might come away from this deal having actually gotten the better half, despite James Dolan sticking his stupid meddling face into all this.
Now JUMP like you're leaping over the hood of a prop car in the final round of an obviously-rigged dunk contest while a gospel choir sings R. Kelly at you.
Thought no. 1: Chauncey’s scoring prowess will take our offense to the next level (though of course Carmelo will get all the credit):
It’s hard to overstate how much better of a shooter and efficient of a scorer Chauncey Billups is compared to Raymond Felton. Don’t believe me? Let’s go to the numbers (from basketball-reference.com).
First of all, let’s ignore plain ol’ unweighted FG%. It tells you nothing about how efficiently a player scores because it doesn’t factor in the extra point you get from hitting a 3, or the fact that made free throws count as points but not as field goal attempts. True shooting % (TS%) is weighted to account for all of those factors.
I’ve put together a random list than includes elite PGs and other elite guards in Billups’s age range who are known for being good scorers. Let’s compare some career TS% (and keep in mind league average is about .540):
Notice how one of these things is not like the others? But just to be fair, let’s look at this season:
Raymond Felton .524
Chauncey Billups .634
Ray Allen .623
Steve Nash .636
Kobe Bryant .555
Chris Paul .604
Deron Williams .587
Wow. Just look at the difference between Felton and Billups. It is so not even close, that it is not even funny.
Consider the quantum leap in efficiency we’re looking at right here (numbers are from this season only):
Per 36 minutes:
Felton: 5.9 FG 13.9 FGA 16.0 points
Billups: 5.1 FG 11.7 FGA 18.4 points
Now that is significant! Of course, scoring isn’t everything, especially from a PG, but that is a huge upgrade right there. If we were talking about a guy like Rondo who can’t shoot but is a truly elite passer, that’s another story. But while Felton is a better playmaker than Billups, he’s not nearly good enough to make up the difference. Felton is just an okay playmaker who simply can’t shoot. Moreover, the fact that Felton is second on the team in shot attempts and on pace to obliterate his record for three point attempts despite hitting on less than 1/3 of them means he is actually hurting the offense by taking shots away from more efficient scorers. Chauncey Billups would not do this.
Thought no. 2: The pick and roll will improve with Chauncey at the helm:
Have you noticed how, since that 13-1 run against mostly garbage teams where we looked unstoppable, our pick and roll attack has slowly shriveled up and died? This is supposed to be the bread and butter play of our offense, but once teams began to adjust for it by packing the paint to stop Amar’e, we had no way to punish them, because Felton can’t hit a 3 when his man goes under the screen and therefore can’t create a passing lane to reach Amar’e (passes he is only okay at making, in the best of circumstances). Having a point guard who can score as the ball-handler on the pick and roll is a huge part of being able to make the play, you know, work.
Last year, you know who was no. 2 in the entire league at scoring off the pick and roll as the ballhandler (right behind Steve Nash himself)? That’s right, Chauncey Billups:
This is in terms of Points Per Possession as the primary ballhandler on the PnR:
1. Steve Nash .99
2. Chauncey Billups .95
3. Chris Paul .94
4. Derrick Rose .94
15. Raymond Felton .84
Not bad!! What about their effectiveness hitting the roll man? I don’t have access to $ynergy $tatistics so I’m going off this interesting NBAplaybook.com blog post. The numbers, again, are from last season, which actually strikes me as kind of fair since neither Billups nor Felton had the luxury of passing to Amar’e on the PnR that year. How do they rank (in terms of Points per Possession, again)?
1. Chris Duhon 1.28 (I KNOW, let's just ignore it and move on)
2. Steve Nash 1.18
3. Deron Williams 1.15
4. Jameer Nelson 1.14
9. Chauncey Billups 1.07
13. Raymond Felton 1.04
The difference here is less pronounced, but still: Billups comes out on top. It seems hard to imagine our overall pick and roll attack becoming any less than "better" with the addition of Billups and the tutelage of D’Antoni. I’d still say Felton is the better playmaker (especially in transition and on the drive-and-kick), but Billups should at least be more effective at running what should be our no. 1 play.
Thought no. 3: But Chauncey is basically a traffic cone on defense at this point, right?
Well, I dunno. He’s probably a downgrade from Felton, but by how much? According to 82games.com, Felton’s opponents at PG are putting up a Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 17.9 per 48 minutes, while Billups’s opponents at PG are putting up a PER of 15.4.
I’m not sure I believe that, or would stake much on opponent PER being any kind of good way to measure an individual’s defensive play. There isn’t really a good number to reflect defensive performance. Defensive Rating (DRtg ) is an estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions (which has a lot to do with the other players on the floor, so big grain of salt here); this year Billups is has a DRtg of 112 while Felton is posting 111.
Again, not sure what to take away from this, except that the drop-off from Felton to Billups on defense may be a bit overblown.
Thought no. 3: But no way Billups can run as fast-paced an offense as ours, right?
This year the Knicks are running the 2nd fastest-paced attack in the league. They are scoring the 2nd highest number of points per game, and the 8th highest points per 100 possessions.
The Nuggets, on the other hand… are running the 3rd fastest offense. They are scoring the most points per game in the league, and also the most points per 100 possessions.
So… yeah. Not all of this is due to Billups, obviously, but I think we can all stop worrying about whether Billups is literally incapable of running a fast-paced offense due to age. Speaking of which…
Thought no. 4: But Chauncey Billups is SO OLD. EWW, OLD!
Well, look. Chauncey Billups (34 years old) is no spring chicken, I will grant you that. But before you consign him to the nursing home, consider this: tall, well-conditioned PGs who don’t rely on quickness to be effective, can often perform at a high level well into their mid and even late 30s. See: Steve Nash (37 years old), Jason Kidd (almost 38), Andre Miller (almost 35).
Keeping in mind the fact that there is like a 0% chance we’d keep him past 2012, it’s probably safe to assume that Billups will continue to be okay for us for the life of his contract. He really is just not THAT old. Consider this: Kobe Bryant is 2 years younger than Billups, but he has played a full 9,000 more total NBA minutes. That’s like four full seasons more!! And is anyone saying Kobe Bryant is too old or has too many miles on him to be effective? No.
Thought no. 5: His contract is very convenient.
This has been discussed elsewhere ad nauseum, so let’s just note that yes, it is nice that we could conceivably swing a short-term upgrade at PG while not adding any salary commitments that would prevent us going after another elite PG in 2012. Neat!
Thought no. 6: How will this affect what Toney Douglas do? (HWTAWTDD?)
Toney Douglas will probably have to do more of what Toney Douglas do, and with more consistency, since Chauncey Billups really can’t be a 40mpg kind of PG anymore. This is a little scary, but on the other hand, can you imagine a better mentor for young Toney? Chauncey Billups came into the league with more of a SG’s skill-set and struggled in his early/mid 20s to learn how to run an offense. Sound familiar?
Thought no. 7: Playoff experience
Raymond Felton has played in four career playoff games. The less said about those games, the better.
Chauncey Billups has played a total of 5171 minutes in 139 career playoff games. That is practically two full NBA seasons of playoff experience. That is more games and minutes than Toney Douglas has played period, by a lot. All he has to show for it is a championship ring, an NBA Finals MVP award, and a career playoff PER of 19.5. He was also an integral part of the Team USA squad that won a world championship this past summer, which is nothing to sniff at.
Considering a team constructed around Amar’e and Melo would be one built to do playoff damage as soon as possible, this experience may just come in handy. I mean, in all of Melo’s years of Nuggetude, the only time he ever got out of the first round of the playoffs was with Chauncey Billups dishing out the rock. Coincidence…?
Final thought: OMG intangiblez
It’s pretty noteworthy how in only 50 games, Raymond Felton has managed to make Knicks fans fall in love with
his shot selection his toughness, floor leadership, winner’s mentality, and willingness to play through anything to get a win. This is the kind of true leadership that the Knicks have been lacking at the PG position for what seems like forever. Wouldn’t we be crazy to give that up?
Well, maybe. I concede there are strong arguments to be made for keeping Raymond Felton, and maybe even turning down a deal for Carmelo that hinges on a Felton/Billups swap. I hope someone of you make those arguments, below in the comments!
But, what comforts me about all this is that the PG we’d be getting back is one of the more consistent, reliable, clutchest, winningest guards in the game. He too exemplifies many of the qualities we have come to admire in Felton. It’s Chauncey fuckin’ Billups! If you had told me exactly one year ago before last year’s trade deadline that in 12 month’s time we’d have a team built around a core of Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, and Chauncey Billups… I’d have squealed and maybe peed a little bit, like Whoopi when she sneezes (gross). That is an enviable collection of excellent players, and a team that still has some financial flexibility to add more pieces down the line, depending on the parameters of the new CBA.
As much as I have grown very attached to this current roster and don’t like how much we’re giving up in this deal, I have to take my homer goggles off for a minute and concede that it could be worse—and that is in large part because Chauncey Billups runs shit like a boss. So thanks, Kroenke family, for being total cheapskates! And Chauncey, if you end up here, just give us 1.5 good seasons of doing what you do, and I promise Knicks nation will look fondly upon your cameo in blue and orange.
Here is a video of Chauncey Billups doin' work: