During this year’s NBA Finals, Kay Felder did not make a single appearance. The only court time he saw was pregame, where he scrimmaged with assistant Phil Handy and teammates like Derrick Williams, Dahntay Jones and James Jones. When the actual games started, Felder was on Cleveland’s inactive list.
On one hand, that’s all anyone really needs to know about Felder’s rookie season. The Cavs, quietly simply, did not feel comfortable with him playing meaningful minutes. It’s why they signed Deron Williams and LeBron openly talked about needing a playmaker when Felder was on the roster all year. For the Cavs, and LeBron, Felder was not ready to even get a real shot at those minutes.
But viewing Felder simply in that vein ignores what he did showcase as a rookie didn’t come at the NBA level. Felder only played 386 minutes in the regular season and zero in the playoffs. And when he did play, he seemed to struggle with NBA game speed and, when he saw extended time in January, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue had to keep him from looking over at the bench too much.
In the D-League with the Canton Charge, however, Felder starred. While playing 36 minutes a night, Felder averaged 29.9 points and six assists per game while shooting 46.7 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from three. Perhaps most impressively, Felder showed a knack for drawing fouls and shot 7.8 free throws per game.
With Canton, you could see Felder having no problems with the speed of the game or reading defenses. The attributes that made the Cavs buy a pick to select him in the first place — his speed, his ability to create his own shot and his ability to command an offense — were on full display. In the D-League. Felder played with a confidence and poise that was rarely on display during his few NBA minutes.
Just look here as a he drops with a Windy City Bulls defender with a crossover:
Or here as he zips around a hedge from a Westchester Knick in order to get into the lane and drop off a no-look pass to Eric Moreland:
Or here as he hesitates just slightly and is able to position his body inside of Tyler Hansbrough and scores against a much taller defender:
Felder’s time with the Charge wasn’t all perfect. He turned the ball over a bit too much — 4.2 times per game — for what the Cavs would want out of him as Kyrie Irving’s backup. Defensively, because he is 5’8” and 177 pounds, teams will pick on him and hunt him down. That might not matter as much in the regular season, but it will come the playoffs and a possible fourth Finals matchup with the Warriors.
There’s also the question of how the Cavs will view him in the post David Griffin reality. There is no way to know what Chauncey Billups or any other potential general manager thinks of Felder. And Williams, while likely seeking more than the minimum, could return and leave Felder on the bench again. His contract for next year isn’t fully guaranteed either, making it possible Cleveland parts ways with him after just one year.
But Felder did show something this year and will have a chance to do again in a few weeks time during Summer League play. The question now is if it’ll be enough for the Cavs to give him a chance to do more.