Raymond Felton low key signing fills Thunder’s big time need

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 30: Raymond Felton
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 30: Raymond Felton /

Sam Presti continues his aggressive offseason, this time addressing the most pressing need by adding veteran point guard Raymond Felton on a 1 year deal.

The well traveled veteran point guard Raymond Felton can add the OKC Thunder as his seventh stop in his 13 year pro career. Felton comes to OKC on a one year veteran’s minimum $2.3 million deal.

Dispensing of the OKC Elephant in the room:

For fans who witnessed the five games the Thunder played in the Orlando Summer League, a couple things became abundantly clear. Josh Huestis and Dakari Johson demonstrated growth and offered fodder regarding their position on the roster. But, the elephant in the room was Semaj Christon. The point guard rarely looked like he belonged on the court with the rookies or G-League players, let alone providing backup services for Russell Westbrook.

Clearly, Christon has not grown this offseason and with Presti shoring up the starting lineup the one gaping hole was a backup point guard.

Sam Presti has arguably produced the best overall roster tweaks this offseason. But, until this position was filled the Thunder were going to have issues when Westbrook sat. Although Donovan can stagger Westbrook and Paul Georges’s minutes, it behooved OKC to add a reliable backup point guard.

Felton the vet Westbrook needs:

Felton provides a serviceable player who can at the very least run an offense. He’s vacillated between being a gritty tough nosed defender and an over weight guard who seemingly lacked focus and desire. That said, in his past two stops he’s provided quality reserve minutes. Specifically, for Rick Carlisle in Dallas and Doc Rivers in Los Angeles for the Clippers.

Last season in 21.3 minutes (probably double what he’ll play in OKC) his per game averages were 6.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.3 blocks with just 1.0 turnovers.  His shooting splits were 43.0 field goal percent, 31.9 three-point percent, 78.1 free throw percent and 47.5 effective field goal percent.

In terms of his advanced stats his offensive box plus-minus was a negative -1.8 (but, let’s remember the Clippers depth wasn’t exactly stellar). His defensive box plus-minus was a positive 0.8. In comparison Christon was a negative -5.1 on offense and negative -1.2 defensively. This is relevant because it means the Thunder bench unit will be better suited to hold a lead.

Must Read: The Thunder are now one move away from contending

Knows his role:

Felton has delivered playing alongside bigs Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan. And he’s played with iso ball sharpshooters Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and Jamal Crawford. Subsequently, his greatest point guard asset from these experiences is his ability to effectively run the pick and roll. This has to be music to Enes Kanter ears. Yet, he’s equally adept at driving the paint to dish the ball out to the perimeter. This asset should help bolster Doug McDermott and Alex Abrines offensive production.

He can also play off the ball or score himself. Any way you slice it, Felton is a massive upgrade over Semaj Christon.

Is Felton on the scale of a Shaun Livingston, Cory Joseph, or Patty Mills (when Tony Parker is healthy) — no. But, those players would have cost significantly more. Ultimately, Raymond Felton can run an offense, plays tough nosed defense, can create for his teammates and can score at a good clip. Most importantly, Donovan won’t have to sweat worrying they’ll lose double digit leads every time  Westbrook sits.

And, he’s played behind Chris Paul who is known to have a strong voice. So, he’s used to playing with and for competitive point guards.

Related: OKC Thunder return to contender status with addition of Patrick Patterson

The Price is right:

The overriding point which can’t be overlooked is Sam Presti continues to bolster the OKC Thunder squad on an extremely economical rate. Diving into the three free agents he added this week consider this point.

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Darren Collison may well be a better point guard, but would his presence be significantly better than Felton?  Collison will make $10 million a year versus Felton who’ll get the veteran’s minimum of $2.3 million.

Andre Roberson will earn $10 million a year while players like Otto Porter Jr. and Kentavious Caldwell Pope will each get max contracts over $21 million a year.

And, Kelly Olynyk will earn $12.5 million a year compared to Patrick Patterson who’ll earn an extremely economical $5.4 million.

Role Acceptance:

We can argue the semantics of these players ability versus Presti’s signings. But, would paying $43.7 million for those other 3 listed  players be worth the extra $26 million a year? How much more would those 3 players improve your squad over the three free agents Presti signed?

I’d offer an argument they aren’t better because they don’t address the specific OKC needs had and some of them won’t be happy simply playing a role. Consequently, Patterson, Roberson and  Felton each address a specific need or roster gap and are all character guys who have no problem playing a role within a team.

Bottom line if you told me a week ago Presti would re-sign Roberson, add Felton and Patterson for $17.7  million this season I might have thought I was in full REM sleep.

Then again, before we hit October, this summer may go down as the dream offseason, so perhaps it’s a perfectly fitting analogy.