The Cleveland Cavaliers surprised a lot of people in the 2013 NBA Draft. No, I'm not talking about when the front office opted to select Anthony Bennett with the first overall pick. That was a surprise, of course -- but I'm talking about the second round. Cleveland had the 31st and 33rd picks in the draft and after trading the 31st pick to the Portland Trail Blazers, they selected Carrick Felix. It's unnecessary to get worked up about 2nd round picks, but the selection of Felix caught most draft experts off guard. DraftExpress.com didn't have Felix getting drafted at all, much less with the third pick in the second round.
I'll admit to being one of the guys that knew very little about Felix prior to Adam Silver announcing his name. The day after the draft, I found as many Arizona State games online as I could and started to learn a little more about the newest member of the Cavaliers. After just a few viewing sessions, it was fairly apparent what attracted the Cavs (and specifically head coach Mike Brown) to Felix. After watching Felix play, it becomes pretty hard not to root for him. You often hear cliches about how guys "play the right way" -- but Felix really does. He's a tremendous athlete, relentless defender, and phenomenal rebounder for his size (8 boards per game at just 6-foot-6).
In the Cavaliers' first Summer League game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Carrick Felix's game was as advertised. Too often do we see guys trying to do too much in Summer League games. They're out there trying to prove that they can do everything and end up going away from what got them there in the first place. Carrick didn't fall into that trap. He played to his strengths and showed off the same non-stop motor that we saw at ASU.
One of the best things about Carrick Felix is that he knows exactly who he is as a basketball player:
"I feel like I just need to be myself -- that's just me playing basketball. At the end of the day I just want to help my team be in the best position to win. And if that's me diving on the floor, going for loose balls, going for offensive rebounds -- or even just being a cheerleader, I mean I got to do what I've got to do to help my team win the game."
Felix told me that he was nervous when he first stepped on the floor, but any nerves must have subsided fairly quickly. He got beat on a couple of defensive possessions early in the game, shook those plays off, and got re-focused. In his 24 minutes, he flashed a little bit of everything. He made 2 of 3 three-point attempts and assured me after the game that he has the range to be a consistent threat from the perimeter:
"Oh yeah, I definitely have the range. I'm just gonna spot up and let it fly. As long as I keep working and knocking down shots it's gonna be fine."
He also grabbed six rebounds, three on the offensive glass. One possession saw him get lost under the basket amidst several Lakers' big men fighting for a rebound, only to emerge with the ball and lay it in off the glass. Even when he wasn't in position to get the rebound, Felix came flying in out of nowhere and just barely miss a ridiculous putback dunk. Along with the kind of solid defense that doesn't show up in the box scores, Felix added a steal and 2 highlight-reel blocks. One of his blocks came as a Laker squared up a shot from the perimeter, which Carrick Felix emphatically swatted into the stands. I can only assume that Mike Brown was fairly pleased with what he saw from his 2nd-round pick.
"It's a little different from college with the spacing, the way guys can move -- they're bigger and athletic. But it's just the game of basketball. We play it everyday."
It was only one Summer League game, but Felix's performance was impressive. He showed all of the little things that you want out of a role player: energy, toughness, and a willingness to do whatever it took to win. Perhaps most importantly, he seems to understand his role. He knows he isn't going to be a prolific scorer or a great facilitator. But he doesn't need to be. He just has to do what the Cavs drafted him to do and I'm sure he'll find a place on the roster and eventually on the court in a real NBA game.
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