Ray Felton has been bad this year. He has become the goat and the lightning rod for the disappointment Blazer fans feel about this team, who many thought after a 7-2 start were better than they actually were (remember LaMarcus saying we are the best team in the West on national television like 3 weeks into the season?) This chasm between Blazermania expectations and reality, along with coming in overweight and probably being the leader of the quit on Nate uprising, has magnified how bad Felton has been. I get it. He's been pretty bad. I acknowledge that.
However, you have to admit he has ranged from serviceable to pretty good since Nate got canned. Sure, he dribbled a ball off his foot and we lost the game because of it the other night, but that can happen to anyone. Because it happened to Felton, he got slammed for it. I was listening to Fifth Quarter tonight, and the host said Felton told reporters he had been talking to Blazers management about an extension. Everyone FREAKED out. The tweeters and callers went off the reservation. "I will never buy season tickets again!" "I won't got to a game all year!" "I'll throw up in my mouth!" The Fifth Quarter host dismissed it out of hand. These irrational, emotional kinds of responses are the exact opposite of the kind of approach a team should take when evaluating what kinds of moves to make going forward.
The fact of the matter is, the Blazers don't have a lot of options at point guard. If Nolan Smith was an NBA point guard, he would have proven it by now, either in practice or in his limited run, and he'd be starting while Felton would be on the bench. Smith is not going to get much better, he was a 4 year college guy who everyone agreed on draft day had little to no upside (and then the Blazers took him over Kenneth Faried, sigh). The most apt way I would describe his game is "he doesn't really do anything". Johnny Flynn can leave at the end of the year if he wants to, and he hasn't improved much since entering the league 3 years ago. He seems to have maxed out as possibly a serviceable back up point guard, but not much more.
Deron Williams is not coming .The second most asked question on Blazers Fifth Quarter, after "What would be the most satisfying way to kill Raymond Felton?" is "Do ya think the Blazers can sign Deron Williams?" And for some unknown reason, hopefully because he has been mandated by Blazers executives to paint a pretty picture about the Blazers future and not because it is reflective of his basketball knowledge, the Fifth Quarter host keeps saying "Maybe! We have cap space!" Please, Fifth Quarter host guy, stop giving five year old Timmy lying in bed clutching his radio wearing his Brandon Roy Jersey in his Blazers sheets under his Clyde the Glide poster hope that Deron Williams will come to Portland because we can pay him. The dude is going to get paid no matter where he goes. There are other teams with max cap space. If he wants the most $ and to wait on a team in the mini-rebuild phase (like we are), he'll stay in New Jersey/Brooklyn. If he wants to play for a contender now, he'll go home to Dallas. There is a .0000000001% chance of Deron coming to Portland. He would have to get hit in the head while watching Portlandia, wake up and decide "Hey, thats my kind of town", or maybe go on a bad acid trip with Channing Frye to come here. Barring something permanently mind-alternating, there is no way.
Lets look at other offseason options for the Blazers at PG. Steve Nash probably does not want to come to a Portland team that only has LaMarcus, Batum, and Matthews (maybe) as championship level rotation pieces on it. If he wants a ring, he'll go to a contender like Dallas or Miami, if he wants to mail it in or do the mini-rebuild, he'll stay in Phoenix (who also has a lot of cap space). Houston has two very good point guards (Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic), but unless Houston wants a lottery pick I don't think we have the pieces to get either of them. The Camby trade tells me Houston doesn't have the stomach for rebuilding, which makes me think they wouldn't do one of those guys for our New Jersey pick or our other lottery pick+Elliot Williams or something like that. We could probably do Batum for one of them but that feels like one step forward, one step backwards. Jerryd Bayless is a free agent, all the Free Bayless people could come out of their caves and start yelling again, or we could all acknowledge that he isn't that good and move on. I'm sure there are some other options out there but I'm too lazy to look for them, because I don't think they are good options. Feel free to let me know if I missed one.
We could target someone in the draft, if it weren't for the fact that a) this is a bad point guard draft with like one lottery PG who would be a reach for us with our Nets pick and b) we are in mini-rebuild mode, not full blown lets wait 3 years for our freshly drafted point guard to develop while tanking to get more lottery picks mode. We are in a better spot than that. A LaMarcus-Batum core, with cap space and two good picks in a deep draft, in a Western Conference where the only powerhouse that is going to be around in two years is Oklahoma City is not a bad place to be. We don't need a world beater at point guard, we just need someone serviceable.
Which brings me back to Felton, who was a serviceable to pretty good point guard for four years prior to this one. He was NOT the only guy that checked out on Nate this year. Just about the ENTIRE roster checked out on Nate. Camby. Wallace. Crawford. The second he was named an All-Star and we started getting blown out, LaMarcus mailed it in too. Nate lost the locker room, Felton didn't take it from him. Sure, he played a part, but Felton is not Kobe Bryant or Lebron James. He can't get a dude fired by himself. Besides, parting ways with Nate is the right move for the Blazers going forward. Nate was good for the Roy/Oden era, two guys that a slow, iso offense made sense with. That was not the team he had this year, and he didn't find a way to change his style. Nate had his strengths (motivating young guys, getting defense out of not that talented defenders, being the perfect good guy figurehead for the post Jail Blazers era) but he also had a lot of limitations (play calling, playoff match-up ingenuity, adaptation to roster changes, living and dying by Roy, never fast breaking ever. EVER). Who knows what he could have done with Roy/Oden. He doesn't fit a Lamarcus/Batum core nearly as well (these guys need a decent point guard, not Steve Blake, and they are going to want to run). Nate has also stifled every point guard (except Dre, my favorite player, who pretty much told him to f*ck off I got this, and no I will not count Steve Blake) that he has ever had with us, which probably had an effect on Felton's play this season.
Back to Felton. We can probably resign him for something really cheap right now. He has played himself out of just about any leverage he has. We can probably give him one year guaranteed with team options for second and third years that pay him more if he reverts back to his pre-2011-12 norms. This will incentivize him to come into camp in shape, which he will be further incentivized to do since a) he will know when the season is starting instead of being on vacation with Dre and a bunch of chalupas thinking there is no season on December 1st, and b) he is a human being, and any human being would be at least a little embarrassed by how he played this year and will want to do better. Plus he knows just how much he will be tarred and feathered if he comes into camp fat again after this year. He would have to be a masochist or decide his goal in life is to piss off the Blazers fanbase to come in as cupcake Raymond again. Frankly, I'm surprised he is open to sticking around after all the hate. The dude is either dumb as bricks, a competitor who wants to prove his haters wrong, or a psychopath.
Think about all the clunked threes he has missed this year, the not quite being able to jump high enough to make a lay up, the dribblings off the foot. Before this season, Ray made those threes, he jumped high enough to lay it in, he didn't dribble it off his foot quite as much. He was an NBA caliber, serviceable point guard. He will have weathered the storm, he will have a year of dealing with the unique bipolarity of the one-sport Blazer nation town under his belt. He will (probably) do better. Betting on a Felton regression to the mean, especially given how he has been playing lately when he is finally in shape, seems like an okay play for a Blazer front office that simply doesn't have a lot of options. So please, fanbase, instead of flipping out and canceling your season tickets and dropping flaming dog poo on Chad Buchanan's doorstep, let them at least explore the option before running the extend Felton idea out of town.