Raymond Felton helped usher in the fast-paced Nuggets, what will his role be next season? Where will he be?
With the New York Knicks, Raymond Felton was averaging 17.1 points and 9 assists per game in 38.4 minutes per contest over 54 games. He was in a perfect situation, finally out from under the strict Larry Brown's rule in Charlotte and running the fast-paced Mike D'Antoni offense. Felton's career was finally taking off, in a large NBA market, and then he was traded to the Nuggets where he was rendered a backup point guard and awkward shooting guard.
6'1’’ 205 lbs.
Turns 27-years-old June 26, 2011
Experience: The 2011-12 season will be Felton's 7th in the NBA.
Contract status: Felton has 1 year and roughly $7.5 million remaining on his deal.
Overview of 2010-11 season:
With the Nuggets, Felton was an important piece and played a large chunk of minutes at the shooting guard position thanks in large part to a tricky hamstring injury that sidelined Arron Afflalo. Felton played pretty well for the Nuggets - when he wasn't at the free throw line (see below) - but after looking like a man who had found a home in New York it was awkward to see him coming off the bench in Denver. The Bulldog, as I liked to call him, was never afraid to stick his nose in a teammates face, never backed down from a big shot opportunity, and relished playing in an up-tempo style. I was very critical of the Ty Lawson and Felton back-court, but the lineups featuring both point guards were actually the Nuggets most positive +/- lineups with the post-trade players. A unit of Lawson, Felton, Wilson Chandler, Kenyon Martin, and Nene netted a team best (post-trade) +41 in 51.5 combined minutes. And the second best five-man unit went to Lawson, Felton, J.R. Smith, Al Harrington, and Chris Andersen with a +25 in 36.1 minutes. Were those combinations a success because of the players or because of the opponents? With a fairly limited sample size it's hard to tell. Most five-man units for a season average well over 300 minutes.
But I'll argue that the point guard position is perhaps the hardest one to get acclimated to post-trade, akin to the quarterback position in the NFL. Felton did a great job getting comfortable with his new teammates and developed chemistry rather quickly with Chris Andersen, J.R. Smith, and even Lawson.
Felton played in a total of 75 regular season games last year: 54 with the New York Knicks and 21 with the Denver Nuggets and in all five of Denver's playoff games.
***The following statistics for Felton are only a reflection of his games with the Nuggets.***
Minutes: 31.6 per game (35.2 career)
FG: 43.1% (41.2% career)
FT: 61.7% (78.6%)
Free Throw attempts per game: 2.9 attempts (3.1)
Three-point: 45.9% (33.3%)
Three-point attempts: 2.9 attempts (3.1)
Steals: 1.3 per game (1.5)
Assists: 6.5 per game (6.7)
Rebounds: 3.6 per game (3.5)
Offensive boards: 0.4 (0.7)
Defensive boards: 3.2 (2.8)
Scoring: 11.5 ppg (13.7)
Positives / What he brings:
Felton is a natural point guard. He's made himself into a vocal leader that I believe gets his teammates to elevate their games for him. He can knock down the three-pointer, the jumper, can get to the rim, has a nice floater in traffic, and can get the ball to his teammates in impossible spots. On the defensive end Felton is a tireless worker and his bulky frame allows him to body up bigger guards and he possesses the speed to stay with the quicker guys in the league as well.
Unfortunately for Felton, the Nuggets already have a point guard that is starving for minutes in Lawson and the future looks to be his. And unfortunately for the Nuggets, while having a backup that is good enough to start for a lot of teams is a nice luxury, it's probably one they can't afford to keep.
Negatives / What needs to improve:
For the life of me I'll never understand how Felton's free throw shooting went to hell when he came to Denver. A career 78.6% shooter, he was shooting a career best 86.7% with the Knicks - but when he put on the Nuggets uniform he was a miserable 61.7% from the foul line. You'd think the part of your game that you could take anywhere would be your free throw shooting, but that wasn't the case with Felton. Former players say it's all about concentration at the line, so is that what was lacking? Maybe it was a law of averages for the usual C+ shooter who was near a B+ in New York.
While Felton can hit the three-pointer he's not the most consistent shooter from deep. With the Nuggets he was a deadly long-range shooter at 45.9%, but his career numbers indicate that he may have been on a hot steak in his short stint with Denver (21 games). And while Felton is a vocal guard he sometimes falls in love with his offensive game. Never afraid to shoot the ball, sometimes it may have been best to work for better shots or get his teammates involved more. But on a Denver team that was looking for someone to carry the offensive load - it may have just been the marching orders for Felton to look for more of his own scoring opportunities.
Outlook for 2011-12 season:
Felton will turn 27 years-old later this month and is in the prime of his career. He still has some room for improvement and that will come as he gains more experience. But for the most part, I think what you see with Felton right now is what you are going to get. A guard that can do practically anything you ask of him - stretch the floor, score in bunches, play up-tempo, run half-court sets, get his teammates involved, and play lock-down defense. While he's not an elite player at any one thing, his on court diversity makes him a major asset on the right team.
The thought is that Felton will be traded at some point either before next season or during the season. It makes the most sense to deal Felton before the start of the season so the Nuggets can get used to the team they'll have for 82 games (or however many the NBA will play). The best the Nuggets could try to do is to ship Felton off with an erroneous contract as well. While the Nuggets don't have a lot of bad contracts - if they were able to deal Felton along with Al Harrington (4 years, $27.5 million) or perhaps Chris Andersen (3 years, $13.5 million) then the team would free up some additional cash to play with later on in their rebuilding process.
The man that most of the Stiffs would like to see traded is Harrington, but Andersen's size and reasonable contract might make him the more attractive piece. But getting a team to swallow either contract might prove difficult. Also, with Chris Paul and Deron Williams both looking at free agency after next season - teams might be waiting to see if they can hit the point guard lottery via trade this season, so some teams might be out of the running for Felton and his one-year deal until the options for Paul and D-Will are exhausted. But for the fun of it, let's look at some teams that need to upgrade the point guard position:
1.) Sacramento Kings: Tyreke Evans has looked more like a shooting guard rather than a point guard and the young team needs a talented veteran to run the show. With the No. 7 pick in the upcoming draft, the Kings might be on the outside looking in for the top point guards in the draft, but they also might get a shot to draft Kemba Walker out of Connecticut. Would such a young team keep looking to get younger? If not the Nuggets might have a trade partner.
Denver could use their trade exceptions to deal Felton ($7.5 millon) and Harrington ($5.7 million) to the Kings for forward Jason Thompson ($3 million) and Omri Casspi ($1.3 million). Would the Kings take on so much salary just to acquire Felton? It would be crazy to think a team that wants to move cities would take on such salary, but they might be willing to grab Felton solo.
2.) Toronto Raptors: Jose Calderon has fallen out of favor in Toronto, but he also has a hefty annual salary of $9.7 million next season and $10.5 million the season after that. There is no way the Nuggets would take him back in a trade, but I could see something like Felton and Harrington for Amir Johnson and Leandro Barbosa. The problem with a deal like that is the Nuggets would be ridding themselves of one long contract in "Big" Al for another with Johnson. The power forward, Johnson, has some upside, but could be yet another Nugget big man with limited offensive game. Although his high-flying act, shot blocking ability, and quality free throw shooting would be a welcomed addition to the Nuggets and he'd be a nice replacement for Kenyon Martin and a good big man to bring in off the bench.
*A Stiffs reader did mention Amir Johnson, but his post escapes me! So credit you sir for that one...
3.) Minnesota Timberwolves: Well, with Ricky Rubio rumored to be coming to the League the hopes of the Wolves looking for a veteran point guard might be over. Taking back Luke Ridnour at roughly $4 million per season doesn't sound like something promising and dealing for Michael Beasley is not something that a smart team would do - especially with Danilo Gallinari anchoring the small forward spot for Denver.
4.) Los Angeles Lakers: Just a hunch, but I think they'll be waiting to see what happens with Deron Williams and Chris Paul - also they don't have much to offer in the trade department and I don't see them dealing Andrew Bynum for any combination of Nuggets.
5.) Miami Heat: Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers don't really excite anyone, but Dwyane Wade and LeBron James handle the ball so much for the Heat that the addition of a scoring point guard doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Also, the Heat don't have much of anything to offer aside from Udonis Haslem and they will need him in the future as their frontcourt is withering away (Zydrunas Illgauskas, Juwan Howard, Erick Dampier, and Jamaal Magloire anyone???).
You could make the case that some other teams need to upgrade their point guard positions as well. Namely the Houston Rockets with Kyle Lowry, Golden State with - what is their plan?, the Detroit Pistons, the Phoenix Suns with an aging Steve Nash might be a team the Nuggets could work a three-way deal with as Nash gets moved, Portland with aging Andre Miller (why help your division rival out?), and maybe San Antonio if they decide to trade Tony Parker (in possibly another three-way deal).
If the Nuggets could land Amir Johnson from the Raptors for Felton I think I would be pretty happy with that deal. An athletic big man who loves to dunk and block shots? Sounds like another K-Mart to me and one that can bury free throws - 78.8% last season (126-160). It should be a very interesting off-season as the Nuggets try to turn some of their assets into long-term pieces and I think we all expect Felton to be the first player dealt.
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