Melo was the prize; Billups is the difference

Knicks welcome Chauncey Billups. (AP Photo)

As a New York Knicks fan, I was awaiting Carmelo Anthony’s trade to the Knicks as much as anyone. It seemed certain that he would become a member of the Knicks, and I was tormented daily by the various trade rumors.

Finally, the Knicks landed Melo, but in an unexpected turn of events they landed someone who could be just as valuable in the short term — Mr. Big Shot, Chauncey Billups.

I was cautiously optimistic about the acquisition of Billups at first when the Knicks essentially swapped promising young point guard Raymond Felton for the 34 year old. However, after some number crunching, it appears there couldn’t be any point guard, besides Deron Williams or Chris Paul, who would be better for the Knicks right now.

As great of an upgrade as Anthony was over Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, Billups may be that much more of an upgrade at the point guard position for the Knicks.

By the numbers, Felton appeared to be having a better season than Billups. Felton was averaging 17.1 points per game and nine assists per game before the trade, and, along with Stoudemire, was the heart and soul of the Knicks. At first glance, Billups looked to be having a worse overall season than Felton, averaging 16.5 points per game and 5.3 assists per game.

However, there is something very important to keep in mind. Billups played only 32 minutes per game in Denver, while Felton was playing a whopping 38 minutes per game with the Knicks. Also, Denver’s system was a lot slower than the fast-paced game that the Knicks play, which has a tendency to inflate good players’ numbers to higher levels.

It’s also worth noting that Billups is a much better three-point shooter than Felton was, by far. Felton was shooting 33 percent from range this year, while Billups is shooting a lights-out 44 percent. On a team coached by Mike D’Antoni, where making three-pointers is usually the difference between a win and a loss, that statistic alone makes Billups a perfect fit.

That’s not to say that all of Felton’s achievements this season were all for nothing with the Knicks, but Billups has already proven in his first three games in the orange and blue that he was not just an even exchange for Felton; he was a massive upgrade.

Billups, who had no practice with the team under his belt, dropped 21 points, eight assists and six rebounds in his first game with the team. He continued the success in his second game by scoring 26 points and again dishing out eight assists.

Billups’ biggest game for the Knicks came in the recent Sunday matchup with the Miami Heat, where he lived up to his mantra as “Mr. Big Shot” and drilled a three with just over a minute to go to get the Knicks the lead. That kind of clutch play could propel the Knicks further this season than they would have gotten before the trade.

So, as much as I love Carmelo and know that he will be a building block for the future, I can’t help but think that if this team goes somewhere this year, it will be thanks to Billups.