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NBA Free Agency 2014: Examining Brian Roberts’ Fit With The Hornets


Photo by David Grunfeld, Nola.com |The Times-Picayune

Brian Roberts is known for his three point shooting, but it’s not his only skill. 

Towards the beginning of free agency, I did a piece about the landscape of the Hornets roster and how they needed to improve. One of the biggest aspects that I touched on was the lack of depth in their backcourt rotation. Since that piece, Charlotte made waves around the basketball world by signing controversial guard Lance Stephenson to a 3 year/$27 million deal which elevated their depth at the wing position. Another crucial aspect of improvement for the Hornets was with their backup point guard spot. Since the departure of Ramon Sessions, the Hornets struggled to find any consistency at that position when Kemba Walker took a breather.

In an attempt to fix this issue, the Hornets signed journeyman point guard Brian Roberts to a two-year, $5.5 million deal. Despite entering his 3rd season in the NBA, the 6’1 Roberts is a 28-year-old vet who spent four seasons toiling through Europe before landing a spot with the New Orleans Hornets during 2012-13 season.

Since his NBA arrival, Roberts has been able to be productive while also falling under the radar of the national landscape. During his two seasons with New Orleans, Roberts developed a little niche as an above-average offensive player because of his ability to score from the majority aspects of the court. However, Roberts’ bread and butter is his proficiency as a perimeter shooter. In 2013-14, Roberts shot 36% from beyond the arc, good enough for fifth place had he played for the Bobcats last year.

Besides his skills from the perimeter, Roberts has showcased that he has the ball-handling abilities and quickness to work his past his opposition and penetrate to the rim. Despite the fact that he’s not really that solid when he’s working around the rim, Roberts is able to get to the free-throw line on a consistent basis. Last season, Roberts had around 3 FTA’s (free throw attempts) per 36 minutes. While that may not be too impressive, Roberts held the honor as having the best free throw percentage (92%) in the NBA.

Roberts’ work as a distributor has gone unnoticed, buried by his three point shooting ability. But it shouldn’t be ignored. While his base or per 36 minute stats aren’t too impressive, Roberts is able to use his aforementioned quickness and ball-handling skills to work inside the paint and push it out to a teammate. As evidence by the video below, Roberts has a natural passing instinct which allows him to read the opposition and to kick it out to an open teammate. In addition to his ability to find an open teammate, Roberts is extremely good at keeping the ball out of the oppositions hands. During the 2013-14 season, Roberts had a 2.36 Ast/TO ratio which is pretty comparable to Kemba Walker (2.63) and Damian Lillard (2.40)) among other point guards.

While Roberts’ offensive game is more complete than given credit for, his abilities on the other end of the court are extremely questionable. Many have legitimate questions about how well his speed and quickness actually translate on defense. Despite being able to get into position, the opposition is regularly able to work past Roberts with ease on a consistent basis.

Roberts also struggle with pick and roll situations, specifically, reading sets and deciding whether to go over or under a screen.

His issues defending the pick and roll and perimeter have the potential to be troubling for the second unit defense. With that in mind, Charlotte has definitely had worse perimeter defenders (i.e Luke Ridnour) leading their backcourt so it isn’t a complete disaster. The continued influx of front-court depth should be able to hide some of these issues, but Roberts will still need to find a way to improve as a perimeter defender.

Besides his issues as a defender, Brian Roberts is a solid addition to the Hornets roster. His skills on the perimeter should positively improve Charlotte’s 2nd unit, which has lacked a consistent three-point threat since Ben Gordon barked back at Mike Dunlap during the 2012-13 season.