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Just The Sports: Raymond Felton Is Among NBA's Most Improved As Well

Just The Sports

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Raymond Felton Is Among NBA's Most Improved As Well

There was a tremendous oversight on my part while compiling my list on the ten most worthy candidates for the NBA's Most Improved award. My list of ten should have included an eleventh, current New York Knicks point guard Raymond Felton.

Raymond Felton was the third point guard chosen in the 2005 NBA draft behind the Utah Jazz's Deron Williams and the New Orleans Hornets's Chris Paul and during his time in the NBA, Felton has lagged behind them both in production by a pretty considerable margin. While Deron Williams and Chris Paul have emerged as top-tier point guards, up to this season, Felton had been nothing more than a middling to mediocre point guard.

One of Felton's main problems was he never shot particularly well from the field, especially over his first four seasons in the NBA; his highest true shooting percentage during that time frame was a measly .500, which is pretty terrible for any player, let alone a point guard. Felton's poor shooting is one reason why in his first five seasons, he only had one, last year's, where his offensive rating was higher than his defensive rating.

Felton's poor shooting in his first four seasons looks like it has become a thing of the past, however, as he is continuing to improve on the improvement he made last year when it comes to converting his field goal attempts. Felton's current .588 true shooting percentage through twenty-three games represents not only a career-best mark for him, but is also far above the league-average .538 true shooting percentage for point guards.

The increased proficiency in Felton's shooting is largely a result of his shooting in two areas of the court. The first area in which Felton is shooting well is at the rim; Felton is attempting 3.6 shots per game at the rim and is converting 62.2 percent of them, the highest rate of his career. Felton is also shooting extremely well from 16-23 feet, so well that a regression to the mean is exceedingly likely. On 2.9 field goal attempts a game from 16-23 feet, Felton has a .490 field goal percentage, .100 percentage points higher than his next best shooting season from that distance.

Due to his excellent shooting this season, Felton has seen a jump in his PER from the 15.2 of last season to this year's 20.3 and in his offensive rating from 107 points produced per 100 possessions in 2009-10 to 115 points produced per 100 possessions in the current year.

All is not coming up roses for Felton this year, though, since even with his improvement, he still carries in his game one major flaw. Felton has never shown any great ability to keep his turnover percentage down relative to his assist percentage and this season has been no different in that regard. His 35.9 assist percentage is a career high, but so is his 18.6 turnover percentage, giving him a ratio that continues a disturbing trend. For the fifth time out of Felton's six NBA seasons, his assist percentage is less than two times as high as his turnover percentage, subsequently limiting his effectiveness as a point guard.

Felton's improvement as a shooter this season should not be undervalued and he is playing the best he ever has, but he also has more improvements to make, most notably in his ballhandling abilities, before he can be considered an elite point guard.

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