I'm by no means a Kenny Smith or a Peter Vescey. When it comes to the NBA, I simply follow two guys, Raymond Felton and Ramon Sessions, who have four WPDE Mr. Hoop Zone trophies between them. Both players have been mentioned in trade rumors in recent weeks as both players are approaching restricted free agent status.
When it comes to Ramon, I'm thrilled that he has proven himself as an NBA point guard. When Sessions left school early and became a second round pick of the Milwaukee Bucks, he was immediately shipped down to the NBDL for seasoning. There are a lot of great players who get stuck in NBA purgatory and I feared that Ramon might be in that predicament, but the former Myrtle Beach Seahawk has taken advantage of the chance he got late last season and now he's going to get a chance to play in the league for a number of years.
The Raymond Felton story is a different saga and his name has been getting headlines in the NBA trade waters. This is Raymond's fourth season in the NBA and the #5 overall pick in the 2005 draft seems to be criticized much more often that he's praised. There's a couple of reasons for this. First, he's a top 5 pick in the NBA draft and that comes with lofty expectations. Second, he was drafted right after Deron Williams and Chris Paul. Chris Paul is the best point guard in the NBA. That's a fact. Deron Williams has averaged 15 points and 8 assists and game in his career - Raymond is 13 points and 6.5 assists a night. I think no one would argue that the Jazz are a better overall team than the Bobcats.
The knock on Raymond is that he's a poor shooter (struggling to get to 40 percent) and that he shoots too much. He's now got the label as a combo guard, mainly because the Bobcats put him in that role. Now, Charlotte has a dilemma. Raymond is a restricted free agent and could lose him with no compensation.
I hope the Bobcats trade Raymond. If you read the anonymous internet folks, they paint Raymond out to be a bust who is solely responsible for all of the Bobcats misforuntes over the past three plus seasons. Here's the Raymond that I know: on Saturday night against the Wizards, Felton was carried off the court in the second quarter when he rolled his ankle over a courtside photographer. Not only did Raymond return to the game, but he sparked the Bobcats to victory. When the Bobcats drafted a point guard (DJ Augustin) in the draft instead of a big man, Felton has been nothing but a mentor to the rookie. Augustin is quick to praise Raymond for showing him the ropes on numerous occasions. Other players would be threatened by a rookie taking their minutes. He's a great teammate and he's been durable playing through pain.
It is no coincedence that Felton's game has picked up since the trade rumors have started. 23 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds and only 1 turnover against the Detroit Pistons that included the game winning jumper with .7 seconds left may be Raymond's finest effort as a pro. Whenever Raymond hears doubters, his determination raises to an elite level. I saw it in high school and in college and now it's the pros.
If I'm looking for a comparison, the best I can come up with is Chauncey Billups who was a top 5 pick by the Boston Celtics and was eventually moved and became a great guard.
No matter what happens, Raymond has a big payday coming his way. Perhaps the Mavericks fans or some other NBA team will appreciate Raymond's work ethic, leadership and the intangibles he will bring to a team.