Welcome back to our report card series. In the first part, I gave a breakdown of the entire team over the course of this past season. Today and over the next month, I’m going to delve into the individual performances for just about everyone you know on the Bobcats payroll. Our first of those is Charlotte’s embattled hometown boy, Raymond Felton.
Position: Point Guard
HGT/WGT: 6’1, 198
College: UNC – Chapel Hill
Experience: 5 years
Status: Unrestriced Free Agent, made 5.5 million last season
Many fans consider Ray the sloppy seconds (or thirds) in the 2005 NBA Draft. He was selected 5th overall by the Bobcats, but he happened to go immediately after Deron Williams (Utah) and Chris Paul (New Orleans). Those two are considered the best point guards in the NBA, while Raymond has had to deal with questions about his ability to be a starter. Fair or unfair, those criticisms make him appear far worse than he really is. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not Chris Paul (nor will he be), but he’s capable of running an NBA offense.
When Raymond came into the NBA, he joined Brevin Knight as potential starter for the ‘Cats. Despite being the high draft pick, Raymond played mostly at shooting guard, while BK got the minutes running the point. In fact, Ray didn’t become the permanent starter at point guard until Larry Brown was brought in as coach. Since LB was hired, Ray has steadily improved, though many fans don’t see it.
While Ray’s points are indeed down since Coach Brown took over, his shooting percentages, blocks, and steals are up. In fact, Ray shot over 38% from long distance ths past season; prior to that his high was below 36% and twice he was below 29%. This past season, Ray had his highest ORTG (Offensive Rating, points produced per 100 possesions) at 107 (his prior high was 104, and twice he was below 100) and his lowest DRTG (points allowed per 100 possesions) at 103 (previous low was 107). He had the best PER (player effiency rating, created by John Hollinger) of his career at 15.2, which means he was an above average player. The PER is designed so that the league average is always 15. However, PER doesn’t measure on-ball defense, one of Ray’s biggest stregths, though you wouldn’t know it by watching the Orlando playoff series. Ray also had the best win shares of his career, at 6.5, whereas prior to Larry Brown his high was 3.4 under Sam Vincent. Win Shares attempts to measure how many wins a player was worth to his team. For comparison, Gerald Wallace was worth 11.5 wins and DJ Augustin, who many believe should start, had 2.4 win shares. However, playing time is factored into win shares, so there is an adjusted amount based on per48 minutes production. The league average is 0.100, but Raymond had 0.118, Wallace 0.177, and Augustin 0.092 Win Shares per 48. For those of you who aren’t statheads, that means Raymond is clearly more valuable to the team as constructed than Augustin, the fan’s choice. What should really surprise you, though, is that Tyson Chandler and Nazr Mohammed joined Wallace as the only players better than Felton, yet Augustin was basically 10th (taking out Raja Bell). Stephen Graham and Derrick Brown were more highly rated. But this isn’t Augustin’s report card, so I’ll stop. In conclusion, Felton has improved greatly under Larry Brown should see that there’s still room for improvement.
There’s no guarantee Felton will even be on the team next season, as he is an unrestricted free agent and rejected a 6 year, $40 million offer last season. His value was brought down by a relatively horrid performance in the playoffs, and few teams with cap space need a point guard. Miami, New York, and the Los Angeles Lakers are the most mentioned suitors, but the Heat and Knicks both seek marquee free agents which will take up all their available cap space, and the Lakers are well into the luxury tax. This means the most Felton would be able to get on the open market is right around the full Mid-Level exception, which is less than he made this past season. Raymond has repeatedly stated he wants to stay in Charlotte, but the Bobcats are perilously close to the luxury tax mark, which Michael Jordan has stated is not in the team’s immediate future. Thus, the best Ray should hope for in Charlotte is along the lines of a 4 year, $25 million dollar contract. It’d likely benefit both parties to have a shorter, 3 year deal, as that would allow the Bobcats an avenue to pursure Chris Paul, and an opportunity for Felton to drive up his value yet still sign a long term deal before he turns 30. However, this is just my opinion, and we’ll all be waiting to see what happens.
Ray’s 2009-2010 regular season performance earned him a B. Without Ray, the playoffs would still be out of reach, and his gritty play and toughness have made him a role model to his teammates and embodies the spirit of a Charlotte Bobcat.
Ray’s 2010 Playoff showing, however, is in Jeff McInnis territory. He was never a factor, but he let Jameer Nelson become one. His only saving grace is that somehow, some way, DJ Augustin managed to be twice as bad, which means I can’t give Ray an F. Thus, he’s earned a D-
Ray’s potential grade is quite high, however. We’ve seen how Larry Brown can make a point guard much better than anyone thought. With work, Ray could become a poor man’s Chauncey Billups at best, and he isn’t getting worse anytime soon. So with that, for his potential, he’s got an A-, but like I said, that’s only a best case scenario.
Raymond Felton’s overall grade: B-, maybe an 85. He’s a starter, but not a star.