Ray Felton entered a loaded NBA draft; three of his Carolina teammates were also projected lottery picks. This draft was also top-heavy at the point guard position, with National Championship nemesis Deron Williams and chief ACC rival Chris Paul also projected to go early. There was also a dominant center from Utah in the mix.
Felton’s biggest strengths heading into the draft were his speed, vision, and leadership abilities. Although slightly undersized at 6-1, Felton made up for that with his toughness and deft ball-handling abilities. These skills allowed him to get where he wanted to go on the court while at UNC, while his speed allowed him to blow by his defenders and get to the rim. Felton needed some work on his shot coming into the draft, although he had shown steady improvement during his three years in Chapel Hill.
In the draft lottery that year, the Milwaukee Bucks improbably won the right to the first overall selection. The Portland Trail Blazers were also lucky that night, jumping from the fifth position up to third. As the draft neared, it became clear that the Bucks were set to take Andrew Bogut, the big Australian center, with the first overall pick.
Rather than take Wake Forest's Chris Paul next, the Hawks selected one of Felton’s teammates, Marvin Williams second overall. After swapping picks with Portland, Utah now owned the third selection, which it used to take the first point guard off the board. Except it wasn’t Paul or Felton. The Jazz felt Illinois’ Deron Williams was a better successor to John Stockton in Jerry Sloan’s system.
The New Orleans Hornets had the fourth selection, followed by the Charlotte Bobcats, Trail Blazers, and Toronto Raptors. The Hornets made Paul their choice at four, leaving Felton to the Bobcats as the fifth overall pick. The Knicks held the eighth selection that year, and with Felton off the board, would select Channing Frye.