Heading into Thursday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers weren't expected to participate in the 2016 NBA Draft after trading away their draft picks in previous seasons. But late in the draft, the wine and gold decided to buy the Atlanta Hawks 54th pick for a hefty $2.4 million and used that pick to select Oakland University point guard Kay Felder.
At just 5-foot-9, the lefty's biggest role model in the NBA is Celtics' Isaiah Thomas, who also happens to be very short in terms of his NBA peers. Although he was the shortest player at the combine, the Detroit, Michigan native had a 44-inch vertical, which was second best all-time.
Even with his height, Felder was able to lead the nation in assists (9.3 assists per game) and was fourth in scoring (24.2 points per game) in 36.7 minutes per game during his junior campaign last season, all while shooting 44 percent from the floor and 35.5 percent from beyond the arc. Although his stats gradually increased throughout his three years at Oakland, he averaged 17.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 7.8 assists, and 1.6 steals in 35.9 minutes per game during his three years with the Golden Grizzlies, all while shooting 42.6 percent from the floor and 34.5 percent from three-point land. In the three seasons in Oakland, Felder dished out 699 assists, which is at the top of the Horizon League all-time.
He's not only a guy who can score and dish the ball out to open shooters, but he can get above the rim as well.
Remarkably, Felder was the only player in the country to rank in the Top 5 in both points and assists, while also becoming just the fifth player in the last 20 years to average at least 23 points and six assists in a season in Division I, which was one of the main reasons why he was named the Horizon League Player of the Year.
General Manager David Griffin was thrilled that the Cavs were able to move into the trade and select Felder, via a statement from the team
“We are excited to welcome Kay Felder to the Cavs’ family. Kay is a dynamic playmaker, and most importantly, the type of person and competitor that we want to add to our locker room.”
Whether it was the fact that they wanted to hear "The NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers select" or just that they really like Felder especially that late in the draft, while many Clevelanders may have already gone to bed, the Cavaliers were busy adding another player to their roster.
It may or may not have played a role, but current Cavs scout and friend of LeBron James, Bradon Weems, coached the young point guard at Oakland for two years before coming to Cleveland. For what it's worth, James seems to have wanted to the Cavaliers to select the lefty point guard.
Upon hearing the news, Felder was ecstatic to join the newly crowned world champions, via Detroit Free Press' Lev Facher.
“I won’t lie. When they said Cleveland — you get the best player in the world, a lot of experience, they’ve got guys that want to win. I’m a winner, in my eyes. I just want to be a part of it.”
Felder is the fourth point guard currently on the Cavs roster, to go along with Mo Williams (will accept player option for next season), Matthew Dellavedova (restricted free agent who lost minutes in Finals), and Kyrie Irving. While he is most likely destined for the D-League's Canton Charge next season, the Cavaliers see a lot of promise in a player like Felder, which is why they decided to trade into the draft and take him.