Can Kay Felder fill the void left by Matthew Dellavedova?
The new season is now upon us, as the Cleveland Cavaliers, the defending NBA champions (I can never get tired of saying that), prepare for the onslaught of all teams bent on toppling them off their lofty throne.
But all these cannot happen before the annual ritual of negotiation and trading where free agents look to squeeze every penny possible out of the owners’ pockets in lucrative deals and teams chop and change their rosters.
Derrick Rose has gone to the Knicks. Dwyane Wade went to the Bulls. But we all know about the big trade of the season. The move that sent shockwaves throughout the NBA. That’s right. The Cleveland Cavaliers got Mike Dunleavy … Ok, so it’s Kevin Durant’s move to the Warriors, but putting all that aside, the focus of the Cavaliers is to retain as many of their players from last year as they can, making small changes here and there to a tried and tested roster that we know is capable of winning a championship.
One interesting development, however, is Matthew Dellavedova leaving and the acquisition of Kay Felder. With Mo Williams no longer part of the equation, the role of backup point guard to Kyrie Irving has been entrusted to Kay Felder. But can he fill the hole left by the departure of Dellavedova?
Dellavedova was Cleveland’s caged beast that was unleashed on unwitting opponents when in need of some grit, and all his fans loved him for it. Winning the grand “honour” of being voted the “dirtiest player in the NBA” in a special survey was a moment that particularly sticks in my mind during his time with the Cavs.
Separate incidents in the 2015 postseason involving him, Kyle Korver, Taj Gibson, and Al Horford did wonders for his reputation as one of the dirtiest players in the NBA, but every time we needed him he was there. Sometimes, you just need that one player to get stuck in. He would have been a perfect fit for the ‘80s and ‘90s where “hard play” was brushed under the carpet, with his background of playing Aussie Rules coming in handy on the court.
Nowadays, with the manner in which people go on about his physicality, you’d have thought he knocked someone’s teeth out, but playing hard is not tolerated anywhere near as much in the current era.
With Kyrie Irving being sidelined to start the 2015-2016 season, Dellavedova had to step up, and he did just that. In Irving’s 24-game layoff, the Cavs got off to a solid 17-7 record with Dellavedova making valuable contributions along the line. What would happen now if, in the worst-case scenario, Kyrie Irving had another lengthy layoff? Is Kay Felder the answer?
Felder was the 54th overall pick of the Atlanta Hawks this year, and he came straight to the Cavaliers on draft night. He may only be 5-foot-9 inches (and even that seems generously listed with an inch or two added out of sympathy) but don’t be fooled, as his 44-inch vertical ranks as the second-best in NBA Draft Combine history.
There are many people arguing that Irving isn’t a “true point guard” like Chris Paul or John Wall (but when he’s nailing a three-pointer over the reigning MVP to seal an NBA title, I don’t really think that matters too much), but we now have Kay Felder.
He is one of those “pass-first” point guards, topping the NCAA last season in assists at a rate of 9.3 per game and, using just three of his four years of college eligibility, he blew past the Horizon League career assists tally of 699 with 788 assists. Comparisons have been drawn to Isaiah Thomas, Nate Robinson and just about anyone as long they’re short enough. His name cropping up in the top five of the rookie survey for the biggest steal, most athletic player, best defender, and best playmaker shows that the Cavs may have bagged themselves a bargain.
Let’s take a quick look at some comparisons between Kay Felder and Matthew Dellavedova.
- First, Matthew Dellavedova is limited offensively, Kay Felder is a talented scorer in his own right.
- Although Matthew Dellavedova did hit season highs in assists per game last year, Kay Felder’s vision and passing set him apart and just through the Summer League and pre-season, his repertoire of fancy no-look passes, skip passes, and much more show his elite skills in this category.
- It has been said by some that Felder’s jumpshot could use more work but his field goal and three-point percentages have increased yearly in college, eventually leading to 44% and 35.5%, respectively, last season and he excels in driving to the rim as well as making tough shots in and over traffic.
- Both have solid free-throw percentages, with Felder even making 46 free-throws in a row at one point last season. We may lose a strong three-point threat in Dellavedova who shot over 40% in the last two seasons but Felder is no novice from behind the arc and his ability to feint, throw out passes, and drive to the hoop in an instant keeps opponents on their toes and could compensate for the loss of Dellavedova’s shooting prowess.
- They both play hawk-like defense with Dellavedova taking it to another level as he gnaws at players like a rabid dog, making sure they don’t get any easy outlets or shots with his hustle play, easily making him a fan-favorite. Kay Felder is also a very solid two-way player and gets back on defense in no time and is certainly no pushover, despite his height.
Seeing this overall comparison gives the idea that Kay Felder could perhaps be a suitable replacement for Matthew Dellavedova, but one thing that can be held against Felder is that the NBA transition is not the easiest. Just ask Anthony Bennett. But if he pans out, he could bring a spark off the bench that’s different from what Dellavedova did for the Cavs.
Losing a steely player like Delly will always be a big loss for any team. But it was the short-sightedness of people fixated on height that led to Isiah Thomas being drafted so late. Can lightning strike twice in the case of Kay Felder? All this will be brought to light as the new season unfolds.
This opinion piece was written by avid Cavs Nation follower Hasan Mohammad.