To be honest, Brian Roberts is the player whom I find the hardest to write about.
He’s just okay if the explanation you’re looking for in the dictionary has “okay” as “adequate but unremarkable””
I’d say that it became easier to judge his production once Mo Williams joined the team. In my opinion, a very telling stat can be found when you acknowledge that both very seldom attack the rim. While 7.5% of Mo’s shots come within three feet of the basket, per Basketball Reference (accompanied with his earlier-season stint at Minnesota, it’s a career-low), Roberts takes a shot there 10% of the time.
However, look at how the perception on them as drivers change when acknowledging that entering the paint also can produce looks for team-mates. Per the awesome SportVU data at nba.com, Mo Williams creates a point for the Hornets by driving (which is any touch that starts at least 20 feet of the hoop and is dribbled within 10 feet of the hoop and excludes fast breaks) every 5 minutes. Brian Roberts does so every 10 minutes.
As a team we score a paltry 1.8 points per game on Roberts’s drives and it’s a very telling stat about the way he plays basketball. The percentage of his shots which are pull-ups (53.4%) also tell the tale. His ceiling mostly is a 16-footer off a pick-n-roll. Roberts doesn’t excel as an athlete whether you’re talking about his speed, athleticism or strength and it prevents him from really breaking down an NBA defense.
I almost have to say that my take on his performance earlier in the season was a horrid one. His lack of athleticism fooled me into low expectations and being satisfied with the little success he did show when driving to the rim.
He does have a place in the league. Roberts almost shot 90% from the free-throw line for the third season in a row he’s in the league. Brian has a nice shooting form and can go off for double digits in points solely on long-range jumpers, even if he suffered the Charlotte professional basketball team curse of having his three-point percentage drop the moment he joined our team (a drop from 38.6% and 36.0% in Nawlins to 32.1% when donning a Hornets uniform).
But I do believe that he’s suited to be an 11th or 12th man. A guy you can insert on the court when in need of icing the game with free throws (something at which Kemba hasn’t been exactly perfect) or to open the offense up with a couple of made threes.
What’s almost somewhat crazy is that we didn’t suffer at all with Roberts as our starting point guard when Kemba went down for the first time. A line-up of Roberts, Hendo, MKG, Zeller and Big Al generated a very nice net rating of +6.7 (102.8 – 96.1) in 84 minutes, even if B-Rob (a truly horrible nickname by Steve Martin) shot 36.6% from the field during his starting binge (his 24.3% from the three looks even worse).
His defense was also a glaring hole when playing with the starters. Usually an acceptable defender when playing on bench units, he was rendered as too unatlethic when facing the top point guards in the league. You could sense that Roberts is not accustomed to “icing” the pick-n-roll (by stepping in front of the screen) when the task has to be done in a split-second.
When Roberts tried to station himself in front of the screen in a timely manner, point guards took advantage of Roberts by flying past him so quickly that it takes away any advantage that willingly forcing a point guard to the side-lines gives you.
He also wasn’t ready for the swift drives starting point guards can throw at you when closing out on them, once again allowing them to penetrate through the middle.
Taking all of this into account it does seem like the starters performed so well with Roberts in the place of Kemba just because of the poor selection of teams we faced during that stretch of time (New York, San Antonio, Denver, Washington, Washington, Philadelphia, Indiana, Detroit).
My overall take would be that there is a place for a Brian Roberts on every NBA team. I just would wish to have a more aggressive back-up point guard who can come in always create shots
Moreover, I think you could get a Brian Roberts for the minimum, instead of the $2.75 million we’re paying him.
Ugh.. who even cares about these grades?