March 13, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils guard/forward Carrick Felix (0) shoots against Stanford Cardinal forward Dwight Powell (33) during the second half in the first round of the Pac 12 tournament at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Arizona State defeated Stanford 89-88. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Carrick Felix – A Diamond in the Rough

Hearing Carrick Felix’s name being called with the 33rd selection of the second round by the Cleveland Cavaliers was a surprise for many media draft analysts, NBA general managers and fans. This was a player who didn’t appear on many mock drafts or draft guru’s draft boards. He was a player that team scouts planned to keep an eye on but never expected to be drafted.

At 22 years old, Carrick is more mature than most of today’s draft choices that enter the NBA one year removed from high school. He completed his Master’s degree at Arizona State this year. Last year, Carrick fathered a little girl, which he is quick to tell anyone who will listen how she has changed his life. He realizes that he needs to be a high character player in that he isn’t just representing his team but his daughter as well.

Felix is an excellent athlete with a strong 6-6 frame, a standing reach of 8-8 and a 6-9 wingspan. He has excellent lateral quickness and gets off the ground in a hurry when crashing the boards. Carrick also has great leadership skills. Former coach Eric Musselman told James Herbert of SB Nation: “He’s a great, great leader. Not a good leader, but a great leader. He didn’t lead by just voice, he led by example. And I thought he just did a phenomenal job of getting our team to believe and that was a lot of the reason for the big turnaround this year was his leadership.”

Musselman also indicated that Carrick’s work ethic is the key to tapping into his great potential: “Putting on an NBA uniform is really important to him. And he’s not going to take it for granted. He’ll do all the dirty work. It’s not often you’ll see a senior carry the equipment bags in and out of hotels. That’s the type of kid he is. He believes in doing things the right way and because of that, he’s going to find his niche in the NBA.”

At Arizona State, Carrick’s offensive game was primarily off-the-ball, relying upon cuts, spot-up opportunities catching and shooting and crashing the glass on the offensive boards. Catching the ball down low and short drives to the hoop often result in powerful dunks, although he does have a “touch” game at his disposal when he needs it, using finesse to finish at the rim. He is also a highly efficient finisher in the open court. After two years as a role player at ASU, Carrick had emerged as one of the more productive players in the Pac 12.

Carrick is still raw fundamentally. He needs to work on making his jumper more consistent and extending his range into three-point territory. At ASU, he shot only 63 percent from the line, so he definitely needs to spend some practice time at the stripe. Improving his ball-handling skills is essential, as it will go a long way toward getting him more minutes on the court. Carrick is a good “flow of the game” passer, but it would be nice to eventually see him improve on his court vision and begin making creative passes for assists.

The Cavs have found a diamond in the rough in Carrick. He is big and quick enough to play either shooting guard or small forward. He takes great pride in his defense and is capable of defending three positions. His athletic skills and nonstop motor give the Cavs a much more athletic presence on the court than they had last season. He should be just what the doctor ordered in Cavs coach Mike Brown’s new defensive scheme being installed this season.

Carrick has the right attitude, is highly coachable and is driven to succeed, which is all you can ask for from a newly drafted rookie. I look for good things from Carrick and am rooting for him to be the surprise of the 2013 draft.

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