One of the Cleveland Cavaliers biggest weaknesses last season was their inability to find a legitimate backup point guard to come off the bench behind Kyrie Irving. When Deron Williams was bought out by the Mavericks and then signed by the wine and gold in late February, they thought they had their guy, at least for the rest of the season. The 33-year-old did well, but all but disappeared on basketball’s biggest stage. In the Finals, he struggled offensively and Golden State used his age against him when the Cavs were on defense.
Heading into the 2017-18 season, Cleveland is still in search of that guy that can be a legitimate backup point guard behind Irving. They signed Jose Calderon, but the 35-year-old is not only past his prime, but it will be hard to count on him in the postseason. He can be a serviceable backup point guard, but just in the regular season.
So, that leaves us with Kay Felder, the 22-year-old that will be entering his second season in the NBA after being purchased by the Cavs with the 54th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. During his rookie season, while traveling between Cavs D-League affiliate Canton Charge and staying with the wine and gold, he averaged four points and 1.4 assists while knocking down 39.2 percent from the field and 31.8 percent from beyond the arc in 9.2 minutes per game. But, in the 42 games that he took part in, much of his playing time came during garbage time, when the game had already been decided.
Even with his limited experience in meaningful time last season, head coach Tyronn Lue hasn’t ruled out Felder being the team’s backup point guard. While in Las Vegas for the Cavs Summer League, the head coach spoke about the situation.
Here’s what he had to say, according to cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon:
“Whoever plays the best will play. It’s not like Kay is out of it. He’s just got to continue to grow, get better, and he’s going to continue to get better.”
Felder is talented, but just 5-foot-9, 176 pounds, his size is what hurts him the most.
Although he played less than 10 minutes per game with the Cavs, Felder used the most of his opportunity when he played with the Charge. In 11 games with the D-League affiliate, the point guard averaged 29.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, six assists, and 1.5 steals in 36 minutes per game. He also shot 46.7 percent from the floor and 36.4 percent from long distance. But, the NBA game is polar opposite of the D-League, so how much can you really take from his time in Canton?
With one season under his belt, Felder seems to have learned a lot from a full season in the NBA and during his first offseason as well.
“I’m just trying to show that I can lead, trying to show that I can do the things that I did in college. Last year I didn’t know what to expect. I’m still trying to prove myself but I know what to expect, know what’s expected of me.
“This year I’m being being more vocal. Last year I was more quiet just trying to fit in. This year I’m trying to take the lead and be more assertive.”
Calderon seems to have the backup role right now, but things can change quickly.
“Calderon can make a shot, run pick and roll, doesn’t turn the basketball over, so as of right now he’s our backup point guard.”
So far in the Las Vegas Summer League, Felder has struggled. As the team’s starting point guard, he’s averaging 12.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, one steal, and 1.3 blocks in 24.3 minutes per game, but is shooting just 25.6 percent from the field.
The thing he has going for him is that he’s much younger and more athletic than Calderon. Along with having more upside as well, it seems as though the 22-year-old can be the Cavs backup point guard in 2017-18 if he outplays the veteran during the preseason.
Felder will be a Cavalier no matter what his role is this season, but his role can significantly change depending on how much he has improved since last season. The Cavs need more youth and athleticism off the bench, the second-year rookie could provide just that if given the opportunity.