Everybody Loves Raymond…but why? « Queen City Hoops

Everybody Loves Raymond…but why?

From John Hollinger's outlook on 2007-08 for Raymond Felton:

Felton figures to take another step forward this season, as even if his finishing troubles persist, his outside shot should continue developing…the Bobcats have added enough scoring that he can focus on the drive-and-dish rather than driving for his own offense…All told, if you're looking for a breakout player this year, you could do a lot worse.

I believed it – Felton would take a big step forward this year, start to live up to his lofty draft status, and narrow the gap between himself and his fellow draftmates, Chris Paul and Deron Williams. The good news? I did not have any money riding on such an outcome – but the Bobcats did (and will continue to), with 3 years of mediocrity (from Raymond – that would be far too generous for the team) to show for it.

You may think I am being too hard on Raymond. If so, then go look at his Per 36 minutes Numbers and Advanced Stats from Basketball-Reference.com. What you will see is a player who has made very little improvement over the last 3 years. His shooting percentage continues to hover around 40% (he has made a slight improvement this year – but not as helpful as you might think – I will break it down further later). His assist totals and assist rate have been stagnant and his effort on the boards has actually gotten worse with each year. While his turnovers are down slightly for the year, his turnover rate is actually still worse than his rookie season – he just has the ball in his hands a bit less this year.

I mentioned his woeful shooting percentage – you would think someone who shot that poorly would not shoot often. Or you would hope it anyway. Felton, however, is third on the team (among regulars) in attempts per 40 minutes though. See the table below.

Player Points per Shot # Attempts/
40 Mins
Jason Richardson 1.21 18.7
Jermareo Davidson 0.94 15.7
Gerald Wallace 1.32 15.3
Raymond Felton 1.14 13.3
Nazr Mohammed 1.21 13.0
Derek Anderson 1.13 12.6
Emeka Okafor 1.31 12.5
Earl Boykins 1.10 12.0
Matt Carroll 1.23 11.7
Jared Dudley 1.20 10.3
Othella Harrington 1.10 10.1
Ryan Hollins 1.55 7.1

His number of attemps seems to be out of line with his effectiveness in taking them. It would benefit the team a good deal if Emeka, Matt, and Jared were getting a couple of those shots that Raymond is taking. At this point, you say, “It is Sam Vincent's fault: He was playing Felton at the 2 with McInnis most of the season.” You would have a point – except Felton's attempts per 40 minutes are up to 14.4 since McInnis left the team and Raymond moved to almost exclusively the point. Raymond seems to love to/being told to shoot, a lot.

Here are some more Raymond shooting numbers to digest:
1. His 3 point field goal % has dropped each year in the league: From 35.8% to 33.0% to 28.4% this year. The good news? He is taking fewer. The bad news? Because he is taking fewer (and making fewer) threes, his effective field goal % has actually decreased since his rookie year, from 44.6% then to 43.8% now. In a nutshell, he is scoring fewer points per attempt now, despite a slightly improved field goal % overall.

2. Raymond gets to the basket very well – and shoots horrendously when he gets there. Raymond takes 33% of his attempts from in close – comparable to point guards like Baron Davis (32%), Deron Williams (37%), and Andre Miller (32%). The difference? They all have an effective field goal % on those attempts of at least 10% higher than Raymond: Baron is at 59.4% from in close, Deron 61.5%, and Andre, a ridiculous 62.8% – while Raymond flounders at 49.2%. (All numbers from 82games.com) Being able to penetrate is great – one of Raymond's greatest attributes is his quickness – but if he cannot convert at a better rate, he is actually hurting the team by taking these shots.

3. Raymond gets his share of whistles. To stick with the comparable point guards (and to show that they are not padding their EFG% with trips to the line, compared to Raymond), Raymond does alright when it comes to drawing fouls on his drives. For the year, he has drawn fouls on 9.8% of his FGA, while Baron is at 10.6%, Andre 10.9%, and Deron an impressive 13.8%. That 1% (or even 4%) difference is not the 10% difference in EFG%. So, the good news from this? Raymond seems to get a reasonable level of respect from the refs on his drives.

4. Felton is improving at least one thing: Scoring from in close. What?! The last two bullets were about how horrible Raymond is at just this, and now I am going to claim that he is getting better? Well, yes, because he has improved this year – a great deal actually. Last year, those same numbers were 45.5% EFG% on shots from in close, and a foul drawn rate of 8.6%. So, it seems that Raymond is making the effort to better this area of his game – though…

5. That improvement seems to be at the expense of his jump shot – which has abandoned Ray. All the time Raymond seems to have spent last summer on scoring in the lane seems to have come during his normal time for taking jumpers, as he is beyond bad this year when taking a jump shot: 41.0% EFG% – down from 42.3% last year, and even further down from the 44.9% of his rookie year. This probably goes back to his declining 3 point FG% – but it would seem that he might want to split his practice time a bit more this off-season.

I think I have made my point – Raymond does not score well and the team would be better off if he took fewer shots until that area of his game improved. Does this mean I think the team should bench him, trade him, or let him go? No – not at all – but I wanted to take a closer look at some of these aspects of his game.

Let me close with this: I do think Raymond can be an effective/solid NBA point guard for a playoff caliber team. As I said earlier, he possesses good quickness, is a solid passer (7.2 assists per game is not bad, currently good for 9th in the league), and is solid with the ball (he is comparable to those same 3 point guards in Assists per Bad Pass – slightly lower, but comparable nonetheless). The good news? Raymond is still young – and does seem to be working to get better. Just remember: Chauncey Billups was another lottery pick point guard who started his career with only so-so results – players can and do improve. We can only hope that Raymond continues to pursue perfection in his craft.
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