On the eve of the NBA free agency period opening plenty of names are being thrown around for ways the Pelicans can improve especially at the small forward position where depending on which way Darius Miller‘s qualifying offer goes will be “filled” at the moment with James Southerland, Luke Babbitt (a better stretch four last year) and Tyreke Evans (a better shooting guard last season). Without a ton of room under the cap to maneuver, Pelicans fans have been throwing out the names of second tier free agents throughout the summer like P.J. Tucker and C.J. Miles. There is potential that the Pelicans strike out on both players though, which means upgrading at the wing spot will be tough. That doesn’t mean there aren’t players that can’t help at a bargain price though, and one of those such players is Charlotte Hornets wing Chris Douglas-Roberts.
Before the NBA Draft it seemed likely that Douglas-Roberts was headed back to Charlotte next season after playing 49 games with the team a year ago. Then the Hornets drafted P.J. Hairston late in the first round and suddenly the idea Douglas-Roberts would be back was thrown into question and a Pelicans team that drastically needed wing depth was potentially gifted another option.
Douglas-Roberts averaged 6.9 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1 assist in 20.7 minutes per game last season for the then Bobcats after joining them during the year following some time with the Texas Legends. It was perhaps the most successful stop of Douglas-Roberts career thanks in part to the best three-point shooting percentage of his career, at 38.6 percent on almost three attempts a game. The highlight came when CDR knocked down a buzzer beating jumper to beat the Hawks in April but Douglas-Roberts and his bizarre hair were clearly a highlight for the Bobcats as they surprisingly made the playoffs.
Douglas-Roberts isn’t a completely safe bet for the Pelicans though, despite the fact that his next contract probably won’t come close to the prices of Miles or Tucker. Since he was drafted in 2008 by the then New Jersey Nets CDR has bounced in and out of the NBA and that continued last season but that new-found three-point stroke can change all of that. If it sticks CDR is clearly an NBA talent thanks to his length and athleticism so the spacing is important. He also seems to have calmed down from early in his career when he took some bad shoots seemingly out of a bit too much confidence. If the three-point stroke and better decision-making sticks Douglas-Roberts is at least a bench playing 3-and-D type wing with the potential to be starting caliber going forward.
So how does Douglas-Roberts compare to Miles and Tucker, the names getting throw around the most to fill the spot? Take a look at the table below:
On the offensive end of the floor Douglas-Roberts finished with the highest true shooting percentage and effective field goal percentage out of the three players but fell behind Tucker in rebounding and both Tucker and Miles in assisting teammates, though the difference in Tucker and CDR is assist percentage is evened out in Tucker’s higher turnover percentage. On the other end Douglas-Roberts didn’t steal as many possessions for his team as the other two players but he blocked shots at a comparable rate to Miles and better than Tucker. What the table really shows though is that there really isn’t as big a difference in the players production on the court as there is in the money they will be paid, especially when you consider that the questions Douglas-Roberts has are also tied to Tucker, the option New Orleans fans seem to like the most.
Like Douglas-Roberts, Tucker’s shooting jumped higher last season than it ever had before, especially from three and there are questions about how much of that is from the Suns amazing offensive system. Tucker took only 23 of those threes came from outside of the corners last season as he was mostly just stashed in the corner as Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe zoomed around picks and found the best option for their team to score. Douglas-Roberts meanwhile at least showed comfort in taking shots from beyond the corners as he took 70 wing threes last season. The results weren’t great, he was only league average from the left wing and below league average from the right wing, but it may be more encouraging for the Pelicans that CDR can spot-up comfortable from those spots knowing that Anthony Davis has added the corner three this season. The biggest difference between Tucker and Douglas-Roberts comes in their physicality, which especially shows on the glass. Tucker is a much better rebounder than CDR but with Omer Asik and Anthony Davis in the starting lineup that extra rebounding probably isn’t as big of a deal.
The best part of Douglas-Roberts though is that he isn’t necessarily an either-or with Tucker or Miles. Last season with the Bobcats CDR came off the bench and by the end of the year was leading the Charlotte bench unit as a weird hybrid of a of a point forward and spot-up shooter. With a bench that at this point looks likely to include a rookie point guard in Russ Smith, the shell of what Eric Gordon used to be, Ryan Anderson and either Alexis Ajinca or Jeff Withey a player that can create their own shot at times like Douglas-Roberts could be useful.
There is a chance none of this matters. The Hornets gave CDR his chance to get back to the NBA and all indications are that he enjoyed his time in Charlotte. Maybe the team isn’t sold on Hairston as an instant impact guy, or thinks that the two can play together and tries to bring CDR back. But if Douglas-Roberts hits the free agent market the Pelicans should take a look. Bargains are going to continue to be important going forward as the team tries to build to contender stats and if you can get three-quarters of P.J. Tucker for half the price it makes sense. And if things don’t work out at least the mistake would come at a cheaper price and with some amazingly weird, awkward hair for fans to enjoy.