Tag:Raymond Felton
Posted on: February 21, 2012 3:44 pm
Edited on: February 21, 2012 3:55 pm
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Reports: Blazers bench Raymond Felton

Raymon Felton is being benched in Portland. (Getty Images)
Posted by Ben Golliver 

The writing has been on the wall, and now the move has finally been made. 

The Oregonian reported on Tuesday that Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan has elected to bench point guard Raymond Felton and will replace him in the starting lineup with Jamal Crawford.

CSNNW.com confirmed the report, and caught Felton's less than enthusiastic response to his demotion.
“He (Nate McMillan) called me this morning and told me we got to have consistency from that position and that a 7-point quarter was unacceptable,” Felton told CSNNW.com. “I'm not just going to blame myself for that first quarter. We're a team. We win together, we lose together.”
Felton's starting job has been in question for some time. As noted last week, he has struggled both on and off the court. He's averaging a career-low 10.0 points per game, he's shooting a career-low 37.1 percent from the field, he's shooting a career-low 22.9 percent from beyond the arc, he's averaging 6.3 assists (the fewest since his rookie season) and, according to HoopData.com, his turnover rate is at a career-worst level.

Meanwhile, the Blazers are 5-7 in February and scored just seven points in the first quarter of a Monday night loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. This after a Thursday night loss to the Los Angeles Clippers in which Felton shot shot 0-for-7 and committed five turnovers, playing just 24 minutes as coach Nate McMillan opted to sit him during the final stretches of the game.

Following that game, Felton said he didn't feel that McMillan trusted him.  

Those comments, coupled with Tuesday's insinuation that he is being blamed for Portland's poor performance against the Lakers, are not going to play well for McMillan, who told reporters on Saturday that the disagreement between Felton and himself had been resolved. Portland's brass also won't take too wel to the public nature of the comments, as the organization has long advocated an in-house solution to resolving any grievances.

The biggest issue here is that Felton still doesn't seem to have come to terms with the reality of his poor play. He's been one of, if not the least, effective players in the NBA playing 30+ minutes per night. His player efficiency rating is currently that of an average back-up point guard, not a surefire starter. His minutes and role had to be reduced. There's simply no way around it until he demonstrates he can return to being a far more effective player.

Crawford, a score-first two guard by nature, is not a likely panacea, although he has run Portland's offense somewhat effectively this season and is capable of running a nice two-man with forward LaMarcus Aldridge. He's certainly not a long-term solution for a team with aspirations of playoff success.
 
It sounds like a broken record, but the All-Star break can't come soon enough for Felton and the Blazers. You can probably say the same thing about the upcoming trade season.
Posted on: February 17, 2012 3:48 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 4:22 pm
 

Blazers G Felton: McMillan doesn't believe in me

Raymon Felton said he isn't feeling his coach's trust. (Getty Images)
Posted by Ben Golliver 

An ugly performance in an ugly game got even uglier when it came time for the post-game explanation.

The Portland Trail Blazers lost to the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night, 74-71, in the definition of a "lockout game," and Blazers guard Raymond Felton was the worst of the worst. He shot 0-for-7 and committed five turnovers, playing just 24 minutes as coach Nate McMillan opted to sit him during the final stretches of the game.

It was arguably the low point of what has been a putrid first season in Portland for Felton, and his growing dissatisfaction came to the surface after the loss, according to CSNNW.com.
“I know I'm struggling, but it's hard to perform the way you know how when you know they don't have confidence in you,” Felton told CSNNW.com. “Never in my days playing basketball, have I felt like a coach wasn't confident in my abilities. It's hard to play knowing that. Coming in and out of games is throwing my rhythm off, but it's something that I'll get through."

“Tonight was one of those nights where it was hard to get into the game knowing every mistake I made would be magnified,” Felton said. “It's to the point where the only person I could turn to was my mom."
These aren't the first words reflecting a developing rift between point guard and coach. In statements made to the Portland Tribune earlier this week, Felton compared McMillan to New York Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni, pointing out that players seem to perform better in D'Antoni's system. Felton, of course, played some of his best basketball in New York prior to the Carmelo Anthony blockbuster trade last season that landed him in Denver, who eventually traded him on to the Blazers on the night of the 2011 NBA Draft. The underlying implication from those comments, it seemed, was that McMillan's system was not as suited to producing success for Felton.

The real cause for Felton's frustration and isolation isn't complicated: by virtually every important measure he's having a terrible season. He's averaging a career-low 9.9 points per game, he's shooting a career-low 36.0 percent from the field, he's shooting a career-low 20.6 percent from beyond the arc, he's averaging 6.3 assists (the fewest since his rookie season). According to HoopData.com, his turnover rate is a career-worst 19.46 and, according to Basketball-Reference, he's attempted the most shots from 26 feet and out without making a single one (17) in the NBA this season.

Put it all together and you have one of the league's least effective players who actually gets big minutes. Felton has started every game so far for the Blazers this season, averaging 32.8 minutes per game. Felton's PER is 10.06, which places him as the No. 52 overall point guard in the league. Los Angeles Lakers point guard Derek Fisher is the only starting point guard with a lower PER than Felton, and he plays seven fewer minutes per game.

Taking this a step further, there isn't a single other NBA player averaging more than 30 minutes per game with a PER lower than Felton's. Indeed, he's one of just three players -- along with New York Knicks rookie guard Iman Shumpert and Detroit Pistons rookie guard Brandon Knight -- to average at least 30 minutes per game while producing a PER of less than 11.

If math isn't you're thing, the takeaway point here is this: through Portland's first 31 games, nearly half the season, Felton is playing at the absolute bottom of the barrel. And, the related point: he's had plenty of opportunities. Citing a coach's lack of confidence after that stretch of play -- and that much playing time -- is just about the most obvious buck-passing imaginable.

The Blazers must now decide whether to turn over the starting point guard duties to reserve guard Jamal Crawford, a score-first two guard by nature, or simply continue to limit Felton's minutes even further. With the All-Star break less than a week away and the trade deadline not far beyond that, there's no question they have to be fully exploring other options, even if that means over-paying for a stopgap solution. Playing in the NBA's toughest division, the Northwest, the Blazers are going to battle night in and night out with the Division's ninth best point guard as their starter. That's not a formula for a fringe playoff team that considered itself a contender earlier this season and wants badly to make a push.

The worst part of this situation is that there is no full-time GM to step in and smooth this one out. The Blazers continue to operate with a front office that includes president Larry Miller and Acting GM Chad Buchanan, after owner Paul Allen abruptly fired former GM Rich Cho last May. There's no full-time GM to back Felton in public. There's no full-time GM to act as intermediary between Felton and McMillan. There's no full-time GM to make the big-picture decision of how and when it's the right time to move on. There's not even a full-time GM to credibly explain the team's stance on McMillan, who is hearing some hot seat talk percolating with his team going 2-5 over their last seven games.

For everyone involved, the All-Star break can't come soon enough.
Posted on: January 18, 2012 1:01 pm
 

Knicks targeting Steve Nash this offseason?

Posted by Royce Young

There have been a whole lot of Steve Nash to New York rumors over the past few years with his former coach Mike D'Antoni running the show and former teammate Amar'e Stoudemire playing in the Big Apple.

Every time, that rumor has been squashed without anything all that substantial coming out of it. I'm sure the Knicks have called the Suns and made inquiries over the past couple seasons, but that happens all the time, all over the place.

This time though, there might be a little more steam behind it. Because it makes a whole lot of sense. According to the New York Post, the Knicks plan on targeting Nash this summer using their mid-level exception.
That’s why The Post has reported the Knicks plan to target Nash (along with Jameer Nelson and Raymond Felton) with this summer’s $5 million mid-level exception.
Shocking news: The Knicks, a team that need a point guard like Boris Diaw needs a donut, are planning on targeting available point guards. I know, I can't believe it either.

But the thought of Nash is what makes it more intriguing. Right now, Mike Bibby, Iman Shumpert and Toney Douglas are splitting duties with Baron Davis likely to take over the full-time role once he's healthy. And though Nash is 37, he is still Steve Nash and would be a terrific addition for the Knicks. Especially considering he could pull back a bit on having to do so much like he does in Phoenix.

My question is, and I posed this in my thing ripping the Knicks point guard situation, why not go hard after Nash now? Yeah, I suppose you could just wait until the offseason and sign him without giving up anything in return, but that just means the Knicks have to hope and pray Baron Davis gives them something. Otherwise, it's just another mediocre season at MSG and wait until next year when Nash is a year older.

I understand waiting on Nelson or Felton. But Nash does genuinely seem like a terrific fit. The problem is that the Knicks have gutted themselves getting Carmelo Anthony that there isn't much left to deal for Nash. Nash has said he won't request a deal, but if at the deadline the Suns decide they want to deal him and Nash says, "I'll only go to New York," and the Knicks come calling offering up Shumpert, Landry Field and Douglas plus a spare part pick, maybe that's enough to make Phoenix bite. Maybe the Suns decide they'd like to get back three rookie deal players in exchange for Nash. Or maybe the Suns would rather preserve cap space and be players in the 2012 market.

Or maybe Nash just wants to stay with the Suns. I guess that could happen too.

Via PBT
Posted on: January 4, 2012 4:45 pm
 

Felton calls out Westbrook for playing one-on-one

Posted by Royce Young



There's not a ton of history between Raymond Felton and Russell Westbrook, but enough I guess for Felton to feel the need to basically call Westbrook out.

Or he just felt like piling on to poor old Russell.

Westbrook was hyper-energetic on the defensive end Tuesday guarding Felton, really trying to swipe at the ball, pressuring relentlessly in an effort to force turnovers. It had mixed results with Westbrook sometimes creating good pressure, but other times he gambled too much and forced OKC's defense to collapse and rotate after Felton got by him. It obviously didn't work enough as Portland beat the Thunder 103-93 with Felton putting up 12 points and seven assists.

Felton noticed this. And I guess he took it somewhat personally, essentially calling Westbrook out for not being a team player. Via Jason Quick of the Oregonian:
“That’s the type of guy he is, that’s his mindset, that’s how he plays,” Felton said when I remarked about Westbrook’s win-the-battle, but lose-the-war mentality. “He’s always in a one-on-one battle with all the point guards. I’m not really into that. I’m into winning. If you win, everybody gets the praises. We are not wearing ‘Felton’ on the front of our jerseys; it says Blazers. I care about the Blazers winning.”
I think we can all read between the lines there. Felton is essentially saying that Westbrook only cares about showing up the man across from him, not that his Thunder win the game.

Having watched Westbrook for three full seasons though, I'd say that's entirely unfair. There isn't anyone on the roster -- not even Kevin Durant -- that cares about winning as much as Westbrook. He almost cares too much, which is why his over-aggressive style can be seen as selfish sometimes. Westbrook has always had a chip on his shoulder and has always wanted to prove people wrong.

Scott Brooks made a point to single Westbrook's performance out last night though.

“I thought Russell had one of his best games,” he said. “He left everything on the court. He made plays for us. He was moving the ball. He was defending.”

Felton saw that as being selfish, however. Which I think is just a mis-read of how Westbrook plays. Because Russ has gotten heated with a lot of other point guards -- Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry, Deron Williams, Derek Fisher and basically 25 others who happen to be opposing him on any given night. Westbrook plays emotional and approaches each game as a challenge to beat the man across from him. I think he sees it as if he can do that, his team will win.

And in most cases, it's true. But that's part of what the NBA is -- one-on-one battles. Games within games. Kobe wants to humiliate the defender trying to check him. Same with Durant. It's how they approach it. Does that mean they're selfish? Some certainly would think Kobe is at times but his main objective is winning. Felton is suggesting that winning the game comes second behind winning the individual matchup.

Felton and Westbrook did battle out it in the playoffs last season with Felton's Nuggets falling to the Thunder in five games. Felton had a front row seat to the beginning of the supposed ball-hog noise following Westbrook that really started with Game 4 in Denver where Westbrook took 30 shots. But at the same time, Westbrook's Thunder handled Denver fairly easily in a gentleman's sweep en route to the Western Conference Finals.

This is the type of thing you can be sure Westbrook has heard and will think about when the Blazers play the Thunder again. It probably isn't all that tough to get into Westbrook's head so it could be a little psychological warfare on Russ. Which isn't a bad move by Felton considering the events surrounding Westbrook the past few days.

Tuesday night, Felton got the better of Westbrook by playing a calm, measured point compared to Westbrook's frenzied, aggressive one. Felton's team won the game. We'll see what happens next time.

Via Thunder Rumblings
Posted on: November 7, 2011 4:36 pm
Edited on: November 7, 2011 4:59 pm
 

Jamal Crawford says Blazers' interest is mutual

Posted by Ben Golliverjamal-crawford-hawks

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge has been openly recruiting free agent guard Jamal Crawford for weeks. On Sunday, Aldridge capped off that recruitment by hosting Crawford's official visit to Portland during the Rip City Basketball Classic charity game, held at the University of Portland's Chiles Center. s

Aldridge's plan had been carefully laid. Two weeks ago, he urged Blazers fans on Twitter to make Crawford "feel at home so he will sign with us!" Shortly thereafter, Miami Heat forward LeBron James began his own recruitment of Crawford, prompting Aldridge to write to James: "How are you going to try and steal Jamal Crawford from us?! I already told Portland to make him feel at home on the 6th."

Later, he told The Oregonian that the recruitment wasn't just a social media stunt.

"I would love for him to come play in Portland," Aldridge told the paper. "I put it out there so he knows I'm serious. If he really wants to do that, I wanted him to know I'm behind it." 

Aldridge even went so far as to stack the rosters so that Crawford would line up alongside Aldridge and fellow Blazers Raymond Felton and Wesley Matthews. All that work paid off.

During pre-game warm-ups on Sunday night, Crawford told CBSSports.com that the Blazers' interest in him is mutual.

"Yeah, definitely," Crawford said. "I've been watching the Blazers so long with Brandon [Roy] being one of my best friends. With LaMarcus here, Wes and Ray, it's almost close to a hometown team. I'm from Seattle. It's the closest thing we have to baketball right now." 

Crawford, 31, averaged 14.2 points and 3.2 assists for the Atlanta Hawks last season and was named the NBA's sixth man in 2010. The Hawks, after dishing out big dollar deals to guard Joe Johnson and big man Al Horford, and with forward Josh Smith on the books for big money already, opted not to offer Crawford an extension. 

"I think I would bring a little bit of everything to Portland," Crawford said. "Scoring, creating for other people. Trying to make the game easier for my teammates... I think they're a team on the rise."

That assessment was right in line with Aldridge's thought process. 

"He's a really good player," Aldridge told The Oregonian. "He doesn't mind coming off the bench. Or starting. He can bring a different dynamic to the team. He's great at pick and rolls; he's a really good shooter. When I get double teamed, it would leave him open in the corner."

Portland's backcourt currently includes Felton, who pencils in as the starting point guard, rookie Nolan Smith, who will likely be his backup and Patty Mills and Armon Johnson, who are expected to battle for third-string honors. At two guard, Matthews stepped into a starting role last year as Roy underwent dual knee surgeries but Roy promised to fight for his starting spot during exit interviews. It's possible, though, that the Blazers would use the Amnesty Clause to waive Roy. Sophomore Elliot Williams, who missed all of the 2010-2011 season after knee surgeries, is also on the roster.

"Starting, coming off the bench, it doesn't really matter to me," Crawford said.

With both Roy and Matthews locked into long-term deals, and with the Blazers stuck in the luxury tax last season, it's difficult to imagine they will have sufficient money to pay Crawford or minutes available to play him if Roy remains on the roster. Despite the roster jam and money drain, Crawford said that he felt that he and Roy could actually play in the same backcourt together, with Crawford defending point guards and Roy defending off guards.

"We've always talked about that," Crawford said. "We play together in the summer all the time, so we've always talked about that."
 
Aldridge's home team took home a 164-157 win in Sunday night's exhibition, with Crawford throwing down a put-back dunk in the final minute to secure the victory. Crawford finished with 18 points, 10 assists, eight rebounds, a block and a steal. He drew plenty of cheers from the sold out crowd of 5,000 fans. Roy, who was scheduled to play, did not attend the game, and Aldridge said that Roy was absent because he was attending to a family matter.
Posted on: July 11, 2011 6:23 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 10:23 pm
 

What teams risk in a lockout: Northwest Division

A look at what is at stake for the NBA's Northwest Division if a whole season was lost due to the lockout. Posted by Ben Golliver.

ricky-rubio

Talk of losing an entire NBA season is a bit ridiculous. But it's a possibility. And with all this hardline talk going on, it seems like neither the players nor the owners are wanting to budge. There's incentive for teams to get a deal done and not just for the money, but because a year without basketball and more importantly, basketball operations, could greatly affect each and every NBA franchise.

Earlier this week, we took a look at the Southeast Division, the Atlantic Division, the Central Division and the Southwest Division. Let's continue with the Northwest Division.  

MINNESOTA Timberwolves


The NBA's worst team won just 17 games last year, had the league's seventh-worst home attendance and is generally mentioned at the top of the list of examples that "prove" the NBA's economic system is broken. That's because their local television, ticket and memorabilia revenue simply cannot compete with the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics of the world. Despite all of that, the Timberwolves might very well have more to lose than any other team in the Northwest Division if the league were to miss an entire season.

Let's start with 2009 lottery pick Ricky Rubio, who against all odds took the plunge and decided to finally join up with Minnesota. For multiple seasons, Rubio has represented hope, carrying Timberwolves fans through ugly winters and late-season collapses. The wait was excruciating. The uncertainty about whether he would or wouldn't stay in Europe further into the future made it worse. Now that he's on board, he's been greeted at an airport, introduced to his teammates, sold some jerseys and rallied the collective fan spirit a bit. To lose an entire season would make that interminable wait that much longer. It would also rob Rubio of a valuable development and acclimation year, which would be an absolute disaster. This is a point guard who needs to start on Day 1, entrusted with the full support of his coaching staff and allowed to make mistakes and build chemistry with his teammates while learning on the job. No season means no opportunity to do any of that.

Aside from Rubio, there are financial risks as well. That might be surprising, because the Timberwolves currently are the only team in the NBA that does not have anyone on their books for more than $6.3 million next season, a fairly astonishing accomplishment. Of course, there's a catch: All-Star power forward Kevin Love is on his rookie deal. Indeed, Love is heading into the last pure season of his rookie deal before Minnesota either must issue him a qualifying offer or sign him to an extension. Worse yet, it's possible that Love, one of the league's premier rebounders, will command a mini-max extension or close to it. The point here? He's set to make just $4.6 million next season, a bargain for his production. If the season is lost, the Timberwolves miss out completely on that outstanding value and are one year closer to biting the bullet on extending him without having reaped full benefits. That's tough.

Last but not least, a lost season is the perfect excuse for any franchise to delay tough decisions or to talk themselves into trying to make things work. With an imbalanced roster full of mixed and matched pieces, the Timberwolves, despite their accumulated talent, are going to struggle mightly again next season. The pains of those struggles, theoretically, could be enough to finally convince owner Glen Taylor to pull the plug on president David Kahn, a man who hasn't shown the ability to construct a team and outright wasted two second round draft picks on technical mistakes during the 2011 NBA Draft, by trading a hurt player (Jonny Flynn) and drafting someone who lied about his age (Tanguy Ngombo). A year without games, then, is a year without losses, which means another year for Kahn to preach patience and wiggle out of responsibility for this mess. The sooner Kahn is gone, the sooner this ship turns around. A lost season will make "sooner" feel like never.

OKLAHOMA CITY Thunder

While the Timberwolves need to get headed in the right direction, the Oklahoma City Thunder are already there. With the best designed roster in the league, two young All-Stars, an undisputed Northwest Division title and a Western Conference Finals appearance under their belt already, and a passionate fanbase that is guaranteed to provide 40+ home sellouts next season, the Thunder would happily start the season today. A lost season, then, would be a nightmare.

Name something, anything, and it's at risk for the Thunder. They lose the value of Russell Westbrook playing on a rookie deal. They lose the value of James Harden on a rookie deal. They lose the value of Serge Ibaka on a rookie deal. They lose one year of Kevin Durant's Hall of Fame playing career. They lose another season of playoff experience. They lose a very good chance at making a run at an NBA Finals. They lose a season of having their top eight players (Durant, Westbrook, Harden, Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Thabo Sefalosha, Nick Collison, Eric Maynor) all locked into affordable contracts. They lose the chemistry and momentum that goes with having an entire nucleus together for multiple years.

What's worse: they have nothing to gain from a work stoppage, other than perhaps the money that would come with increased revenue sharing. Without a single bad or untradeable contract on their books, there is no financial reason OKC would root for a year away from the game. In fact, any change to the Collective Bargaining Agreement that firms up the cap would make it more difficult for the Thunder to keep all this talent in house. That means they wouldn't get the chance to win now and their ability to win later could be compromised.

Usually, young teams that make a deep run through the playoffs can't wait to get back on the court for a second go-around. Multiply that feeling by about 10 and that's the situation facing OKC. 

PORTLAND Trail Blazers

lockoutYou might think the injury-plagued Trail Blazers would welcome some time off to lick their wounds and assess the damage, but missing an entire NBA season wouldn't necessarily be a good thing for this franchise. Really, it's a muddled picture.

The main benefit is clear: the Blazers have a very difficult cap situation next season, thanks to a mini-max contract for guard Brandon Roy, who is apparently no longer capable of reaching his previous All-Star level of play. Saving the $15 million owed to Roy, as well as the $10.5 million owed to aging center Marcus Camby, would be a tempting proposition for most small-market owners. Money aside, saving the miles on Roy's knees wouldn't hurt either.

Blazers owner and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, however, has dealt with serious health problems in recent years and is clearly in spend-big, win-now mode. He would cut a check tomorrow for five times his team's total salary cap if it meant a shot at the NBA Finals, no questions asked. It's difficult to imagine a financial enticement that would make it worth Allen's while to take a year off. 

Aside from Roy, the other big question is center Greg Oden. Missing an entire NBA season doesn't play in Oden's favor, as he hasn't taken the court for an NBA game since December 2009. A lost season means his layoff would extend nearly three full years to October 2012. That's a long, long time to be away from basketball. Complicating that further for the Blazers is the fact that Oden is a restricted free agent this summer. The Blazers would retain matching rights on Oden if a season was lost but they would be forced to offer him an extension without being able to see whether he recovers fully to be able to take the court and, more importantly, withstand injury once he's out there. Oden could command a mid-level type of offer on the open market, which would be a major investment for Portland, because the Blazers have already committed to nearly $80 million in salary for next season, with contracts to Roy, forwards LaMarcus Aldridge and Gerald Wallace and guard Wesley Matthews already on the books into the future. Without another center on their roster who is in their long-term plans, though, the Blazers wouldn't have a choice. They'd have to pay up. Given that situation, you want as much information as possible; a lost season would mean no information.

Finally, the Blazers have a big question at the starting point guard position. His name is Raymond Felton, and he was acquired in a draft day trade for previous point guard Andre Miller. Felton is in a contract year and hasn't played meaningful minutes with any of his current teammates, except for a stint in Charlotte with Wallace. Felton will require a good-sized contract extension next summer as well and the Blazers would surely like to see how he gels with their core, particularly Aldridge, before they commit to him long-term. Without any starting quality options on the roster, they would again find themselves stuck in a corner, forced to do what it takes to retain Felton without a readily available back-up plan.

To boil it down: the Blazers have enough questions without a lost season. Missing a full season would simply create an array of complications and made some tough roster decisions that much more difficult and, potentially, costly. 

DENVER Nuggets

Sure, the Denver Nuggets lost franchise forward Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks, but they did an excellent job of stripping their roster down to allow for a quick bounceback rebuilding effort. The Nuggets, somewhat like the Thunder, are in a financial position where their salary cap situation makes it more advantageous for next season to take place unhindered. The Nuggets currently don't have a truly horrible contract on their books, although the mid-level deal for Al Harrington and the $15 million or so left to be paid to Chris Andersen over the next three years are regrettable. Indeed, the Nuggets have committed to less than $40 million in salary for next season, pending a potentially major financial commitment to big man Nene, who has decided to test the free agency waters, and a decision on guard J.R. Smith.

The biggest risks for Denver would be missing out on the value of point guard Ty Lawson on his rookie deal and managing whatever concerns might arise about Denver's ability to use its salary cap flexibility to continue work on its rebuilding situation. Most analysts believe teams with salary cap room will be in a position of strength, regardless of how the new CBA shakes out, so perhaps that uncertainty is more of an annoyance than a true concern. 

The Nuggets have a lot of questions. How will they spend their money? Who will they bring back? Who will they let go? Are the players under contract currently good enough to compete for a playoff spot in the Western Conference next year or is it better to continue slashing and burning for another season? These are good questions to have because they all point to one fundamental truth: The Nuggets have flexibility thanks to their young, cheap assets. The worst case scenario is that Nuggets fans have to wait a year to watch a promising, athletic upstart group entertain. That's not too bad. 
 
UTAH Jazz

If I'm the Jazz, I'm totally cool with taking a year off. A lost season means that Utah would save $14 million owed to Al Jefferson, $10.9 million owed to Mehmet Okur, $9.3 million owed to Devin Harris and $8.1 million owed to Paul Millsap. While Millsap is probably worth his number, the other three certainly aren't worth theirs, especially on a team that lost its foundational identity when it shipped franchise point guard Deron Williams to the New Jersey Nets at the trade deadline.

Right now, Utah's finances are pretty tight, with $61.5 million already committed for 2011-2012. Look ahead just one year, though, and that number drops to $48.7 million. To make things even nicer, Jefferson, Harris and Millsap will all be expiring that season. The Jazz will be poised to take advantage of their new-found flexibility, keeping the parts that fit (probably only Millsap) and dispensing with the rest.

The biggest risk in a cancelled season for Utah would be the lost development for younger guys like Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward and 2011 first-round picks Enes Kanter and Alec Burks. In Favors, they have a potential franchise forward who needs to start enjoying a loose leash so he can blossom into the player the Jazz expect him to be. Forcing him to take a year off does him no good and, depending on how he responds, could do him some harm. Kanter, meanwhile, looks like an even bigger risk on paper because he was forced to sit out last year at Kentucky, his only year at the college level, due to eligibility issues and because he hasn't yet tasted the NBA game. A lost season would mean two full years away from competitive basketball, not an ideal situation for someone the Jazz selected with the No. 3 overall pick in this year's draft. As for Hayward and Burks, they are lesser concerns. Both have shown promise and clearly have room for improvement. Losing a year wouldn't be critical, but it would be better for them individually if it could be prevented.

On balance, the financial rewards seem to outweigh the development risks for the Jazz.

Salary numbers courtesy of StoryTeller's Contracts.
Posted on: June 23, 2011 9:58 pm
Edited on: June 23, 2011 10:43 pm
 

NBA TRADE: Nuggets, Blazers, Mavs swap

Posted by Matt Moore

Update 10:17 p.m.: Ken Berger reports that the deal is more complicated. The Blazers also traded Rudy Fernandez to the Dallas Mavericks for the 26th pick in the draft, which they then immediately shipped to Denver (Jordan Hamilton). So to recap:

Portland receives: Raymond Felton

Denver receives: Andre Miller, Jordan Hamilton (by way of Dallas' 26th pick)

Dallas receives: Rudy Fernandez

Fernandez goes to the world champions who need a wing player with energy. The Mavericks are an old team and wouldn't have room for another young player like Hamilton, now get Fernandez who can hit from the outside (3-goggles!) but who was also disappointing and inconsistent for Portland. 

Winner: Denver. They managed to get Miller who is a cash dump and can play backup point guard, and an athletic forward to replace Wilson Chandler who will presumably now not be retained in free agency, and they didn't have to surrender Kenneth Faried who they took at No.22. More young assets and all they moved was Felton who they weren't committed to anyway and who wanted out. 

Loser: Portland gave up their starting point guard and Rudy Fernandez for Raymond Felton. Felton is good. He really is. But he's not starter-plus-sixth-man-for-him good. Not a good start to the post-Cho era in Portland. 

Original report:

In a trade that does not feel like a trade at all, Yahoo! Sports reports that the Nuggets have traded Raymond Felton to the Portland Trail Blazers for Andre Miller. 

The Nuggets essentially swapped Felton and his longer-term contract for Miller who has a team option for 2011-2012 and is an expiring deal after that. The Nuggets may not pick up the option on Miller, or may keep him for one more year as a backup to Ty Lawson. Felton was unhappy from the get-go in Denver after getting bumped to the bench for the younger Lawson.

For Portland, they've been looking to upgrade their point guard position for close to a year and Felton was available and cheap.  Felton likely won't have the chemistry Miller had with LaMarcus Aldridge or his lob ability, but he has better scoring ability, is younger, and a better defender as Miller fades with age. 

The Denver Post reports that the Nuggets also acquired the 26th pick from Dallas (not known what Dallas recieves), and a future second.
Posted on: June 21, 2011 8:49 pm
 

Report: Raymond Felton rumors heating up

Posted by Matt Moore

So it's come to this for Raymond Felton. From underrated point guard in Charlotte, helping the Bobcats make their first playoff game, to heralded new York Knicks point guard of the future, to Carmelo Anthony trade bait, and now this. Shopped for a lousy draft pick in a lousy draft.

ESPN reports:
Would the Kings be willing to send the No. 7 pick to the Nuggets for Raymond Felton and the No. 22 pick? The Kings have had interest in Felton but it's probably going to take them giving up the No. 7 pick to get him. I wouldn't be shocked to see the Nuggets grab Jonas Valanciunas or Bismack Biyombo if they could get up to No. 7.
via Latest draft buzz: Kings' No. 7 for Felton? - TrueHoop Blog - ESPN.

When Felton landed in Denver, I was positive he was going to start. He'd been a starter for years, was a better defender than Lawson, and would pitch a fit if he was benched for such a young player. But credit to the Nuggets, they knew that Lawson was their guy going forward and they stuck with him. Now Felton wants out, and the Nuggets are happy to oblige him, especially if they can get another young asset to their army of young assets. The No. 7 pick isn't exactly a goldmine in this draft, they'll have a shot at a few high caliber prospects, though you'd have to question if Bismack Biyombo is really the kind of player they want to add to a team that needs substantial help down low besides Nene. The Nuggets would also be in a position of need for a backup point guard if this were to shake out.

Felton is a perfect fit in Sacramento, despite what will probably bum him out in being in a smaller market again, overshadowed by younger players who haven't been around as long. A starting 1-2-3-4 rotation of Felton, Marcus Thornton, Tyreke Evans at a combo 2-3 spot and DeMarcus Cousins gives the Kings a foundation going forward. They've needed a steady hand at point guard and could certainly use Felton's defense. 

Maybe it'll work out for Felton, but it's still got to be a disappointment to have gone from the wanted sidekick star in New York under a coach that makes point guards look great to being unable to unseat a younger player on a rebuilding team and getting shopped for a draft pick in a poor class. Someone get the guy a hug. Wait a minute, he got that new contract from New York last summer and Larry Brown is no longer haunting him. Nevermind, he's good.  
 
 
 
 
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