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Nelson or Felton

Which young guard do you want running your team?

Posted: Tuesday January 9, 2007 12:31PM; Updated: Thursday January 11, 2007 9:51AM
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Who would you rather have?
Each week, SI.com's Jack McCallum analyzes two players of similar talents and/or
on-court tendencies. (Contracts and salary-cap considerations are non-factors.)
Jameer Nelson
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
Raymond Felton
Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

There is nothing not to like about Jameer Nelson. Listed (generously) at 6 feet, the undersized Orlando Magic point guard was the consensus player of the year as a senior at St. Joe's but still wasn't taken until the 20th pick of the 2004 draft. And even the team that got him, the Denver Nuggets, traded him to Orlando for another first-round pick.

But the Magic knew what they were getting: a tough-minded, hard-nosed competitor who's been hearing his entire life that he's too small to play and simply dismisses it. He's not a classic distributor in the Steve Nash sense -- he averages only 4.1 assists per game -- but in the Orlando offense he often defers to Dwight Howard and Grant Hill. He'll get his own points (13.3 a game) when he has to, can play up-tempo or in the half-court and defends his position with quickness and toughness.

Charlotte's Raymond Felton was never the player of the year at North Carolina -- he wasn't even the best point guard in his conference, with that honor going to Wake Forest's Chris Paul -- but his potential to be a great player was recognized when the Bobcats made him the fifth pick of the '05 draft. He is strong and quick and plays bigger than his 6-1 frame, and, not incidentally, he led the Tar Heels to the NCAA championship in his third and final year at Chapel Hill.

Despite his gifts, Felton is a classic point guard, looking to penetrate and deliver. But, like Nelson, he can score in traffic, though Nelson is a little better shooter at this point.

Here's what one NBA coach said about the two of them: "I think Raymond has the edge. He can defend two positions and he's a little more versatile as a player. But both of them are great young men and a team would be lucky to have either."

I agree with all of that. I love Nelson but I see FELTON as having the potential to be even better than Paul, which is saying a lot.

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Reader responses: Grizzlies vs. 76ers

Here's a sampling of your responses to last week's Choosing Sides between the Grizzlies and 76ers:

Mike of Jacksonville, Fla.: "I would definitely rather coach the Grizzlies. They have one thing the 76ers don't have: a franchise player. Everyone on the 76ers' roster is expendable now. Their only hope is free agency and the draft. The Grizzlies have talent and now that they get to play an up-tempo offense, they are going to be tough to outscore."

Dave of Philadelphia: "I'd take the Philadelphia job. Here, failure is expected, whereas in Memphis, a relatively new franchise with little tradition, you would be the one creating the history to which all future failures will forever be compared. Like, for instance, projecting Kenny Payne to be the savior of the franchise, anointing Brian Oliver to be the point guard of the century, implementing a nutritional program for Sharon Wright, game-planning for Manute Bol to hoist 15 three-pointers in a game ... must I go on?"

Mir of Karachi, Pakistan: "I'd rather coach the Grizzlies. They seem to have a better future with Rudy Gay and Hakim Warrick than the Sixers do with Kyle Korver and Andre Iguodala. Gay and Warrick, like Iggy, can be complete players when it comes to filling up the stat lines, but Korver is one-dimensional. Samuel Dalembert seems to have reached his potential and is too inconsistent. Chris Webber is barely standing and Andre Miller seems like a short-term investment and trade bait. With Gasol, Warrick and Gay, the Grizzlies can have one of the best frontcourts in the league in a couple years."

Reggie of Memphis: "You take Memphis because you have at least four players coming off the books (Eddie Jones, Jake Tsakalidis, Chucky Atkins and Dahntay Jones) in the offseason and you'll have a top three pick in a talent-laden draft. You have a nice group of players already in Rudy Gay, Mike Miller, Hakim Warrick, Pau Gasol and Kyle Lowry. Philly has its players signed to hideous contracts, and only one of its three first-round picks will be a high pick."

Mark of Ellicott City, Md.: "Philly benefits from a larger media market, as well as an abundance of draft picks this summer. An upstart coach or a retread seeking redemption would have more to play with on a larger stage if he coached Philly, and thus a better chance at making a name for himself."

Tim Lewis of Redding, Conn.: "Memphis is injury-riddled this year, but has made the playoffs the last three years and will have more appearances to come. Philly has been floundering for years, and that's not changing anytime soon."

Syxx of Philadelphia: "I would choose to coach the Grizzlies for one simple reason: As of right now, Jerry West is still the GM in Memphis, and Billy King is the GM in Philadelphia. I have no idea how King still has a job. If I worked for King and had to deal with Sam Dalembert at 6 years, $60 million, I'd quit on the spot."

Dan of Chicago: "I would take Philly in a heartbeat. In the West you have to battle Phoenix, Dallas and San Antonio, three teams that will continue their championship play for a few more years, and you have up-and-coming teams such as the Nuggets, Lakers, Utah and Houston. In the East the competition is bad. In that division you can go from worst to first in a year. Immediate success and long-term success are much more probable in Philly."

Malo of South Africa.: "Memphis all the way -- solid team with many of the right components ready to go. Philly really only has the two Andres, and Miller is getting old while Iguodala isn't ready for the limelight (although in a couple of years he'll be an All-Star)."

Chad of Springfield, Mo.: "For the short term, I would take the Grizzlies. They have much more to build around, and if they traded Gasol, that would put them even farther ahead. This team has potential. Philly has to wait a year while C-Webb's contract expires. But if it were the long-term heroism I was looking for, Philly is definitely the place. Memphis is a poor market, and even if the Grizzlies do succeed in the next few seasons, they will still be on the outs. Phily has potential, just a few years later."

Mike of Rhode Island: "My case for the Grizzlies starts with the potential that they have. The pieces that you have to be happy about are swingman Mike Miller, who is the leader of this team; forward Rudy Gay, who has unlimited potential; and forward Hakim Warrick, who has taken many steps forward in his game. Once in command I would send Pau Gasol packing (he wants out anyway) for a package of young players (hopefully including a young PG) and draft picks. This then allows the team to have a few picks in one of the deepest drafts ever. Their starting lineup could include five young players who could develop together. The Sixers have money problems with Chris Webber and Samuel Dalembert while the Grizzlies would have generally none."