Full Name: Raymond Bernard Felton Jr.
Nickname: Felt, Fats
Years in NBA: 13
Contract Status: Unrestricted Free Agent
On February 25, 2014, Felton turned himself over to New York police after being charged with 2nd, 3rd, and 4th-degree possession charges for an unregistered firearm. New York City has very harsh gun laws and it may have served Felt better if he had shown up to his arraignment in a 3-piece suit and not this:
Felton eventually pled guilty to the charges in exchange for a deferred sentence, 500 hours of community service, and a $5,000 fine.
Felton led the North Carolina Tarheels to a national title before declaring for the 2005 NBA Rookie Draft. After Charlotte selected Felton as the fifth pick in the 2005 draft, he spent his first 5 seasons with the Bobcats. He then split the following season between the Knicks and Nuggets (Felton was part of the blockbuster trade between the Knicks and Denver that moved Carmelo Anthony to New York). After helping George Karl lead his no-name crew to the 2011 playoffs, Raymond spent a forgettable season in Portland that almost finished his career.
After dropping 20 lbs and getting traded back to the Knicks, Felton got back on track and spent two seasons in New York before being traded to the Dallas Mavericks. He played in Dallas for 2 more seasons before signing a one-year deal with the Clippers before signing his expiring one-year deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Thunder signed Felton to bring stability and leadership to a bench that had lacked both since Reggie Jackson demanded a trade in 2015. The Thunder signed one possible back-up after another and even used their #14 pick in the 2015 draft in hopes of replacing Jackson, but a once powerful Thunder bench continued to deteriorate until its low point in 2016/17 season when it repeatedly blew one double-digit lead after another. (oft-times, multiple leads in a single game)
On top of his duties as leader of the bench mob, Felton was also expected to bring a veteran voice in the locker room.
Regular Season Grade: A-
Felton inherited a disaster when he signed on to lead the Thunder bench, but by season’s end, he transformed his ragtag charges into, if not an asset, at least a break-even non-liability.
That may not sound like a ringing endorsement or justification for his grade, but when one compares where the Thunder bench was to how they finished the season, it may actually be a slight. In his recent player evaluation, the Norman Transcript’s Fred Katz had this to say about Felt’s season:
Walk into the end of any Thunder practice and Felton was wasn’t shooting with any member of Oklahoma City’s most prominent clique. Instead, he was with the two-way players and end-of-bench guys. Paul George once joked about how the team sent him down to the JV. And maybe a team having that sort of division isn’t ideal. But it was also clear Felton, who has alluded to some possible future coaching aspirations, did everything he could to blend his teammates.
The Thunder have struggled in recent seasons at backup point. Their offense went dry when Semaj Christon ran it in 2016-17. Same goes for Cameron Payne. Or Norris Cole. Christon and Cole are now out of the league. Payne is developing in Chicago. They’ve made hasty trades for Randy Foye in attempts to convert him into a lead guard. They’ve turned a disgruntled Reggie Jackson into D.J. Augustin.
Whatever they’ve had there, it’s been inconsistent — or consistent in a way they prayed wouldn’t continue. But not Felton. The 33-year-old vet provided exactly what the Thunder wanted during his first season in Oklahoma City.
The Thunder were worse with Felton on the court, but that’s to be expected, considering Felton’s presence usually meant the absence of Russell Westbrook. Still, the team maintained at respectable levels while their backup ran the offense, getting outscored by 1.7 points per 100 possessions but running at an extraordinarily slow pace, as to limit the number of possessions with Westbrook off.
On the question pertaining to Raymond’s locker room presence? There is no better example than this:
The result? The Thunder overcame a 25 pt deficit in just over 4 1⁄2 minutes in the 3rd quarter to stave off elimination in game 5.
Felton’s comment about this season:
“The season has been great, man. Obviously it didn’t end the way we quite wanted it to, but overall, it’s been a great year,” Felton said. “I’ve had fun, grew a lot of relationships with some guys, made some brothers, some new brotherhood I have now on this team that’s going to last forever.”
Post Season Grade: A
This season, as well as the post-season, has left a bad taste in every Thunder fan’s mouth, but this image from NBA.com says it all about Felton’s post-season grade:
The top three NTRtg Thunder players among those that played regular minutes were Jerami Grant, Alex Abrines, and their bench mob leader, Ray Felton. On top of that, Felton, Patterson, and Abrines, all bench players, led the team in 3-point percentage.
Oh, what might have been had the OKC Big Bust, aka that OKC 3, been just 85% as good as Ray.
Most Memorable Game/Moment:
Of the players I have graded thus far, finding Ray’s most memorable game has been the toughest. There are at least 6 games this season that qualify. Games in which Felton and his kids turned what looked like another disappointing loss into a win. Here was my pick. Pay particular attention to the score when Felton starts his run in the fourth quarter:
Just a month and a half prior to this game, the Thunder had allowed the lottery-bound Nets to embarrass them in their showdown in Mexico City and now here they were, at the Peake, down 11 points to that same Nets team.
There is a very good reason the Nets are in the lottery every year. Their management is a train wreck. Clearly, they don’t have a clue. The Boston Celtics are in the Eastern Conference Finals largely on the strength of two sensational rookies they got because Brooklyn traded away a hockey team of 1st round draft picks in the best draft since Larry Bird and Magic Johnson entered the league. The Nets are #8 in the 2018 NBA Rookie draft, but that won’t help them because they traded that pick to Cleveland!! and here were the Thunder, down by double-digits in the fourth quarter to possibly the worst run franchise in the NBA!! AT HOME!!!
Ray Felton’s 4th quarter spark led to a one-point Thunder win and it was neither the first nor the last time that script played itself out this season. The Thunder made the playoffs by a slim 2-win margin and I will tell anyone that will listen that had it not been for Ray Felton, the Big Bust would officially be the Big Joke had it not been for Fats and his tenacity from day one.
Other than Steven Adams, Ray Felton WAS my Thunder highlight this season.
Obviously, the decision to bring Felton back or not rests on the shoulders of Sam Presti. The Thunder are in a financial pinch now, but if I was that little voice in his head I would remind him that we don’t see anyone better knocking at our door and there is no one on the current roster that can run the bench any better, much less continue this growth curve we saw this season. I would tell him, “pay the man”, and then I would quote the recently departed Robin Williams and say, “but it’s gonna cost you, Chief.”
Player Grades Explained:
A: Far exceeded expectations
Throughout the season as I watched Raymond Felton play, I was repeatedly reminded of a well know sports adage:
“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight that matters, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
It didn’t matter that, more often than not, he was the shortest man on the floor, he never backed off. Rudy Gobert or Larry Nance, Jr., it didn’t matter, Felton showed up ready for battle all season long which is a lot more than I can say for many of his higher paid teammates.
Ray, we want you to give us veteran leadership, check, we want you to hold your charges accountable, check, we want you to compete, check, we want you to put the team first, check, we want you to help us win, check, and most importantly, we want you to improve our bench, check, check, and check.
When a player checks all the boxes, that’s an “A.”
Do you think Felton will be wearing a Thunder jersey next year?
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