A little over a year ago, Raymond Felton was a throw-in: salary-matching filler in the Tyson Chandler trade. Chandler Parsons was the new, young $45 million potential franchise cornerstone.
Now Raymond Felton, RAYMOND GOSH DANG FELTON, has his own parody music video.
And Chandler Parsons is coming off the bench.
Why does Felton have a funny photoshopped parody music video cut with highlights while Parsons works his way back from off-season knee surgery working with the second unit? It's because Felton is part of the best lineup in the NBA.
Golden State's small-ball lineup of doom hasn't played 100 minutes or it'd be them, but for the 100+ minute lineups there is none better than the Mavs fivesome of Deron Williams - Raymond Felton - Wesley Matthews - Dirk Nowitzki - Zaza Pachulia. They have a net rating of +22.2! That's incredible!
Sub Parsons into that lineup and take Felton out and that lineup out is a -3.8. A couple quick reasons why, and why Parsons to the bench makes sense before we continue:
- Parsons is very clearly working his way back from major knee surgery. He hasn't been cleared for his normal minute allotment, currently going about 25 minutes a game and not playing on the second night of back-to-backs.
- Felton's emergence of strong play is no accident and harks back to the limited burn he got toward the end of last year and this preseason. He also makes way more sense with better shotmaker/playmakers in the starting lineup than carrying a bench unit.
- The Mavs bench is a burning dumpster fire. Parsons makes it slightly better than that.
Watching Parsons, it's clear he's not ready for full-time work. His shot (while naturally flat) lacks the lift he normally puts into it and his drives to the rim come up short or blocked. He's getting better, but as we've said here before, it won't be til after the new year until we start seeing Parsons without a minutes restriction.
The genius of the Mavs roster construction was, in theory, that their main five could all pass and shoot -- even Zaza. With Parsons limited, that's hampered the ability of that group. It's a trickle down effect -- the Mavs don't have a single high-usage source of points, so when Parsons isn't going well, that means Deron and Wes are handling the ball more, Zaza has less space to work with and Dirk has to post up more. Dallas is at its best when all five guys are sharing and scoring -- not when one or two guys are ball dominant.
That's where Felton comes in. He's been brilliant as a mini-Parsons -- running secondary pick and rolls, taking advantage of scrambled defenses and probing into the paint to create offense. You'd think that'd be for Devin Harris, but Harris fell on his head and forgot how to play offense or something, so Felton's here to save the Mavs asses.
It's funny because Felton's numbers are pedestrian at best. His per-36 scoring is near his career low. He's shooting less than 30 percent from three and he has a sub-10 PER. He's in Jae Crowder territory! *ducks, hides*
Coincidentally, just like Crowder's time in Dallas, Felton's impact goes beyond individual numbers. He just fits that starting lineup. Like Crowder, Felton isn't asked to be the best at any one thing in that lineup -- just be OK at all of it and chip in when necessary.
Felton doesn't have to be the best playmaker + ballhandler -- that's Williams job. He doesn't have to be a lockdown perimeter guy -- that's Wes' job. He doesn't have to be the leading scorer -- that's Dirk's job. He doesn't have to rebound -- that's Zaza's job.
Felton's job is just do a little bit of all of those things when opposing teams focus on all those other guys. He's been brilliant working as a secondary playmaker after the Mavericks complete their first action on offense and Felton gets the ball against a scrambled defense and a numbers advantage. This play, for example, occurs after a failed Williams-Nowitzki pick-and-roll but still earns a quality shot opportunity for Dallas.
Williams can run a pick and roll toward the baseline with Dirk and swing it to Felton at the top of the key. With defenses focused on Dirk and Deron, Felton typically is catching the ball against a closing out defender. He gets into the paint and has found Zaza at the rim, Wes in the corner or nailed one of his patented floaters.
When Parsons returned to starting earlier in the year, that left Felton to prop up some bad bench units. The Mavs bench has been decimated since the Rondo trade and the crazy DeAndre off-season. Gone are quality backups like Crowder, Brandan Wright, Richard Jefferson, Al-Farouq Aminu. In are a rookie that hasn't looked ready for the big time, a former first rounder trying to regain his footing in the league and a second round pogo-stick energy big that shows promise but also some roughness around the edge.
Felton just isn't equipped to lead second units, especially when J.J. Barea and Devin Harris are in serious funks. But allow him to be a release valve with four other guys that can shoot and pass? He's been a revelation.
This leaves Parsons to come off the bench and he's more than capable of carrying a second-unit. We haven't seen it pay off just yet, as Parsons has had a couple uneven games since coming off the bench, but the logic is sound. Parsons' all-around game allows him to fit into any lineup, so what better way for him to work his way back to full-strength than propping up the weakest part of the Mavs roster.
There are problems of course. Felton needs to seriously even out his three-point shooting (especially his corner threes, he's 3-of-13 from the corners) as opposing teams start closing out to Felton smarter and leave him less room to attack the paint. He's a little mid-range jumper happy and he's only shooting 36.4 percent from the mid-range according to NBA.com.
Then there's the issue of what happens when Parsons is ready to go past 30 minutes and his restrictions lifted. Felton will head back to the bench and it'll be interesting to see how the rotation plays out with Felton, Barea, Harris all battling for backup guard burn. It'll be especially interesting if Harris and Barea continue to struggle, as they've been Rick Carlisle's security blanket the last two years.
Rick Carlisle is a literal warlock that practices the dark arts so he'll make it work. He staggers Dirk's minutes so wonderfully that it isn't a stretch to see Felton get time with Dirk, Parsons and the other starters.
For now, the Mavericks have a seemingly perfect solution to their Parsons health woes. Its name is Raymond Felton.
What a time to be alive.