The game has just clicked for Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kay Felder.
The biggest difference in how Kay Felder played the game before versus how he’s been playing as of late is that lately, he’s been using his speed perfectly.
At the beginning of the season, one could see that Felder had the chops to succeed offensively simply because he had the physical tools and ball-handling ability to get his shots off consistently. He had shown this during his time at Oakland University, while the Cleveland Cavaliers participated in the NBA’s Summer League circuit and in the Cavs’ preseason games as well. Despite a slow start that lasted from the end of October to the end of November, Felder bounced back in December.
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Possessing a cerebral instinct that allows him to use the pick-and-roll masterfully from the midrange, Felder put up great numbers for an undersized rookie point guard from a mid-major program. Nonetheless, Felder often times looked like he was playing frantically on the court. Even though he would be able to score, he didn’t look anything like a player that had grown comfortable playing at the NBA level yet. He played at one speed the whole game.
Now, everything has changed. Ever since Felder’s lone game playing for the Canton Charge, which ended with him 33 points, the game has slowed down for him.
Where you see the most improvement from Felder is his understanding of pace, timing and how to take advantage of his physical tools (including his height).
As previously mentioned, Felder has a killer crosser that allows him to penetrate the lane with ease. Using a quick crossover, moves that tighten up a defenders knee ligaments and freezes them for a second, Felder didn’t just now recognize that those are the moments for him to elevate for a shot or blow past a defender. He’s just recognized that utilizing his tremendous stop-and-start ability, he can lull a defender into relaxation as they play off of him by handling the ball but not attacking the rim instantaneously as he would have done before.
Using his pace, and timing, he now will advance towards the defender slowly in the halfcourt.
As they step forward to close the space between them and the ball, Felder is now extremely capable of recognizing if he needs to shoot before they reach him so that he doesn’t get blocked.
Playing in the slower pace in the NBA D-League, Felder was able to incorporate his prior knowledge of how fast the game is at the NBA level and moving faster than everybody on the floor, was able to tell the difference between how fast an NBA player moves. That was big because before Felder would simply have gotten his shot attempt blocked.
Now, he know he might need them to actually come closer if he wants to get his shot off. If he needs to allow them to come closer, he uses his explosive burst, strength and height masterfully.
As he blows past the defender with his speed, possibly tilting the defenders balance by combining his stop-start acceleration with a crossover dribble, Felder looks very Isaiah Thomas-like in how he gets into a defenders body and releases the ball from under the rim so that there’s less of a chance for his shot to get blocked.
While being a shorter player makes his shot easier to block, it also allows him to snake through defenders in ways many other players can’t. Navigating through the trees, Felder emerges from the forest with the knowledge that he can use the rim as a second defender or pass the ball out if a player is coming over to help on the weakside.
His 44-inch vertical gives him an elevation on his jump shot that allows him to get the shot up over most defenders. Imagine that Felder was the height of a player like Kyrie Irving, who is 6-foot-3. Felder releasing a shot at his height with a 44-inch vertical is like Irving releasing his shot with a 37-inch vertical. That’s pretty good elevation. Nonetheless, it’s a fact that doesn’t matter if Felder can’t gain enough separation from his defender to release his attempt or time it so that the defender’s contest doesn’t have an impact on the attempt.
With his evolved understanding of the speed of the NBA, Felder can now instinctually time when he needs to release the ball and the amount of space he needs to get the attempt off. With his physical tools and ball-handling ability, the sky is the limit for Felder offensively now.
After last night, Felder is shooting 45.2 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from three-point range this season. Per 36 minutes, Felder is averaging 17.9 points and 5.8 assists per game. He has a PER of 16.4.
Defensively, Felder will always have a bit more trouble getting over screens than other players. However, he’s strong and that minimizes the effect screeners can have when trying to keep Felder from staying with the ball-handler. With improved defensive tenacity, Felder will be better. He has to try harder to keep his man in front of him and with his physical tools that shouldn’t be hard whether that means he went under the screen or he’s playing transition defense.
Nonetheless, with his improved understanding of the space, speed and timing of the NBA, Felder will be able to make greater contributions in the steals and blocks categories as well.
The rook can ball. It brings to question if the Cleveland Cavaliers would be better off using their limited assets to acquire a player in the frontcourt, where the depth is weak.