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2016-2017 Clippers Exit Interviews: Raymond Felton, the North Carolina Delight

The Exit Interview series continues with a look at one of the Clippers’ best surprises this season: Raymond Felton.

Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Seven Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Name: Raymond Felton

Age: 32

Key Stats: 6.7/2.7/2.4 (points, rebounds, assists) per game on 43/31.9/78.1 shooting, averaging 21.3 minutes per game in 80 games played (11 started)

Playoff Stats: 5.6/1.4/1.4 per game on 46.9/44.4/1.00 shooting, averaging 18.1 minutes per game in 7 games played

Years in NBA: 12

2016-2017 Salary: $1,551,659- veteran minimum

Future Contract Status: Unrestricted free agent

Summary: When Raymond Felton was signed by the Clippers in the middle of July, the news was met with some skepticism by fans. Once considered a solid starting point guard, Felton had had some legal troubles a few years prior, and his career had faded towards twilight on the moribund Dallas Mavericks. Quietly though, he played well for the Mavs, and every Mavs fan Clips Nation talked to after the signing said they would miss him and that he would fit well with the Clips. They were proven 100% correct.

Raymond Felton was fantastic for the Clippers all season long (including the playoffs). Relative to expectations (and salary), he probably overachieved the most of any Clipper barring Luc Mbah a Moute. Felton played in all but two games, a notable statistic considering how injury plagued the Clippers were this season. Availability is valuable, and Felton was almost always there, ready to play. Felton’s bulldog mentality on defense also enabled him to play more minutes than a regular backup point guard might, as he was frequently played alongside other combo guards, and even used in three-guard lineups. He played the 8th most minutes on the team, just a hair behind Luc Mbah a Moute. And for the 8th man on the roster, he was simply superb.

That strong played continued in the playoffs. While Ray’s minutes decreased against a large Jazz team that required more size on the perimeter, he was probably the Clippers’ fourth best player in the series—he shot incredibly well from the field, and played good defense even when at a significant size disadvantage. His aggressiveness attacking the basket never diminished, nor did his energy. In Game 7, he and Jamal Crawford were perhaps the only players with real fire, and in the potentially last game of the Chris Paul era, that has to be remembered.

Strengths: For a player in his 30s who looks like he could stand to shed a few pounds, Ray Felton moves remarkably quickly with the ball in his hands. He’s a blur attacking the basket off the pick and roll, and he has a variety of scoop shots and flips around the basket to finish over rim protectors. That weight does help him when driving into defenders, as he can push them back away from the hoop even if they’re going straight up. Ray is a hound on defense, always pressuring the ball and trying to force turnovers. That energy translates all over the court, and Ray was one of the few Clippers who always seemed to be playing hard and with some fire. That’s invaluable.

Weaknesses: If Ray Felton could consistently hit 3s, he would probably still be a starting caliber player. Alas, he cannot. That shakiness from outside is increasingly costly in today’s NBA, especially at the point guard position: the ability to hit long balls off the dribble opens up so much for offenses and ballhandlers. That meant that when the Clippers went small, defenses could cheat off Ray, even from the corners, knowing he wasn’t liable to punish them. Sometimes he did, and other times he would take that space and attack the basket… but it still hurt spacing. And while Ray tries hard on defense, his size and age makes it tough for him to be anything more than an average defensive player most of the time. Most guards are bigger than he is, and a lot of them are faster. In the Jazz series, that meant guys like George Hill and Rodney Hood being able to shoot over Ray with impunity despite his best efforts.

Future with Clippers: Raymond Felton has earned himself a nice deal somewhere as a primary backup point guard. Considering he’s 32, and coming off a veteran minimum deal, it wouldn’t be surprising for Ray to take the largest (or longest) salary package available and run with it. This upcoming deal will almost certainly be his last of any substance, and he should milk it for all it’s worth. Sadly, the Clippers won’t have much money to throw around (assuming Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are brought back). They don’t have the cap space or exceptions to match what other teams might offer, and even though Ray was great, Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers are under contract, and they offer ballhandling ability off the bench as well. Therefore, I think it’s unlikely we see Ray back in a Clippers’ jersey next season. However, Felton still has quite a few NBA years left in him, and it’s possible he ends up back in LA someday.

A Few Additional Thoughts: If this article didn’t make it clear, I’m going to miss Ray a lot if he leaves the Clippers this summer. And I know a lot of other people feel the same way. Felton quickly became a fan favorite here in LA, and it was nice having a real backup point guard for once instead of combo guards and players who should probably be third-stringers. His drives to the basket never ceased to amaze and delight, and his steady presence on the court was so nice to see after the wild Clippers’ benches of yore. Good luck Ray!