After appearing in just 29 games his first year with the Dallas Mavericks, Raymond Felton became a stalwart rotation player this season. Felton appeared in a whopping 80 games for Dallas in 2015-16, more than any other Maverick, and played the third most minutes. That's quite the leap for a player who many considered a spare part in the trade that brought Tyson Chandler back to Dallas two seasons ago. However, Felton's performance is what earned him playing time.
With Chandler Parsons sidelined for the first two games of the season and on strict minute limitations for several months, Felton stepped in to a starting role early on. His time as a starter fluctuated as the season progressed but he was in the starting lineup for 31 games including 12 straight games beginning December 1. It was his longest such stretch. As a starter Felton was at his best, averaging 11.4 points on 41 percent shooting including 33.7 percent from deep. He also grabbed 3.8 rebounds and dished 4.3 assists.
He wasn't without his flaws, though. Felton spent much of the season as the off-ball guard. It's a role in which he excelled. However, certain situations (usually due to injuries) saw him playing point guard. Felton has technically been a point guard for his entire career. Yet, with the Mavericks, the offense would bog down when he was running the offense. It's not entirely his fault, the lineups that he was on the floor with contributed to the offensive stagnation, but it's clear that he was much more valuable working without the ball.
While his overall 3-point percentage isn't the most impressive (at 28.2 percent), Felton still kept defenders honest by knocking down big shots. But he was at his best when he was attacking the rim. Felton attempted 169 shots at the rim this season and converted on 62.7 percent of those shots. Devin Harris was the only other guard to attack the rim more than Felton. Harris just did so in far less playing time.
Perhaps, though, what made Felton most valuable to the team was his ability to step up and get buckets when the team needed it the most. In fourth quarters, he averaged 42.8 percent shooting on field goals and 33.3 percent on 3-pointers. Both numbers are Felton's highest shooting marks for any quarter. Those marks came in handy as the Mavericks often found themselves in close contests late or trying to make a roaring comeback.
Felton is an unrestricted free agent this summer. He picked up his player option last summer to remain on the Mavs, earning over $3.9 million this season. Now, he's free to go anywhere.
As mentioned, Felton's future with the Mavericks is up in the air. He will turn 32 this summer and is probably looking at signing his last, or perhaps second to last, contract. So, what will be his priority? Will he be looking to take the most money he can get? He certainly proved that he is still a valuable asset this season. But how much of that was him knowing he was in a contact year? Is he looking to win? Will he take less money for a chance at a long playoff run if a contender comes knocking?
Right now, we simply don't know what he will do. I think it would be prudent of the Mavericks to at least extend an offer to Felton this summer. He's earned it and he works well in Carlisle's system. Beyond that, his durability was on full display and it came in handy with every other guard succumbing to some kind of injury at some point.
Felton's potential return to Dallas is also contingent on who the Mavs pursue in free agency. They'll probably offer a max contract to Chandler Parsons and figure out what Dirk wants in terms of his contract. Then the team will look at other players. Dwight Howard and Mike Conley are often rumored to be on the Mavs' radar. If they do chase Conley, the need to bring back Felton probably diminishes.
Again, though, all of this is hypothetical. Felton could bolt the second the clock strikes 12:01 a.m. on July 1. We just don't know. I hope he sticks around for another year.