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Brian Roberts to Become an Unrestricted Free Agent

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

The Pelicans waived didn't give Brian Roberts a qualifying offer today, letting him become an unrestricted free agent. It's still possible that he could play in New Orleans next season - it's possible that this is a move to free up cap space for the Asik deal, and that the Pelicans will resign Roberts after the Asik deal finalizes. However, if this is the end of the road for Roberts, it aps what was an unlikely career in New Orleans. The story is a familiar one for those of us that have followed Roberts's career over the past two season. A standout for the Dayton Flyers, he went undrafted and went abroad, playing in Israel and then in Germany for Brose Baskets. Along the way, he kept playing in Summer League, for Orlando in 2008 and Sacramento in 2009. His break came when he joined the Hornets in the 2012 Summer League. He played well for a team that lacked guard depth after the Chris Paul trade and earned an invite to training camp. After impressing there, he received an outrageously cheap one-year contract for the 2012-2013 season.

Roberts was certainly a signing for depth - few expected him to log significant minutes over the course of the season. However, he saw the court early and often as Eric Gordon succumbed to injury. Greivis Vasquez logged more minutes than any other Hornet that season, but after that, rookies Austin Rivers and Brian Roberts logged the second and third most minutes at guard. Roberts provided needed offense off the bench, shooting an eFG% of over 47% and posting an ORtg of 109. He performed more unevenly on defense, however, particularly when paired with Austin Rivers in the backcourt. New Orleans fans were subjected to a long season of seeing Hornets fly wildly around the perimeter desperately trying to close out wide-open opponents.

Roberts had to prove himself yet again after the season ended, playing with the Pelicans Summer League team. He earned another one-year contract. With Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans joining the team in the offseason, he appeared to be headed to a vastly reduced role. Injuries, however, once more made Roberts a critical player. When Holiday suffered a stress fracture, Roberts became the starting point guard for a team that resembled a M*A*S*H unit. Now a starter, Roberts put in roughly the same performance he had the previous season - the exact same eFG%, a low turnover rate, a plus ORtg, and subpar defense.

If Roberts doesn't return next season, Demps appears to be placing quite a bit of confidence in Russ Smith, now the Pelicans' apparent backup point guard, presuming Austin Rivers is moved. Roberts is turning 29 next season and has almost certainly hit his peak. But I imagine Roberts would be signed by another team lacking backcourt depth - it seems hard to believe that no team will have room on their roster for a player that played so admirably these past two seasons.