Toney Douglas wasn't supposed to start 18 games or log over 1,200 minutes for the New Orleans Pelicans. He wasn't even on the team when training camp started. Douglas started his 2015-16 season with the Indiana Pacers but was waived so the Pacers could keep Shayne Whittington, Rakeem Christmas, and Joseph Young on the payroll and in their development plans. (Whittington and Christmas spent extensive time with the Pacers D-League team, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Pelicans please take note.) After two terrible games by Nate Robinson the Pelicans waived Robinson and signed Douglas as an emergency point guard.
November was an awful time to be a Pelicans fan. Douglas was logging relatively heavy minutes as a reserve behind Jrue Holiday and Ish Smith and things were not going very well for anyone involved. Injuries pushed Douglas into the ninth most minutes on the team through the end of the November. While Douglas was productive (44% from the field, team-best 40.5% behind the arc) the general lack of talent led to a 4-11 start.
Tyreke Evans and Norris Cole returned on December 1st and Douglas went to the bench. He wouldn't see significant time again until Evans once again left due to injury. Over the next 25 games Douglas played in just six logging a grand total of 44 minutes. Even a relatively healthy team went just 11-14 over that span. As Evans continued to battle a balky knee Douglas slowly gained a foothold in the rotation once again.
For the next month Douglas was the fourth guard in the rotation behind Norris Cole, Bryce Dejean-Jones, and Jrue Holiday. (Insert jokes about Holiday not starting.) Douglas continued to fill it up behind the arc connecting on 41.2% of his attempts. Despite injuries to Evans and Eric Gordon the Pelicans somehow went 9-12. Again, not great, but considering the talent on the court, not awful.
More injuries, first to Bryce Dejean-Jones and then to Norris Cole and Jrue Holiday in succession, thrust Toney Douglas into the starting lineup. Over the next 19 games Douglas would ranked second in minutes played while leading the team in points scored. Without the last remaining vestiges of NBA players, the team won just six games; however, there were signs of life on offense despite a less than stellar 103.6 offensive rating. The ball moved much better as a ragtag group tried anyway possible to adhere to Alvin Gentry's offensive system. Maybe a positive sign of things to come next year?
If Douglas is your 9th or 10th man, it isn't an awful sign, but he should probably be further down the totem pole. Once you start digging down to 12th or lower it is probably a better use of the roster spot, as the Pacers demonstrated, to think more about development for the future. That's the limbo Douglas finds himself in with the Pelicans this summer. His contract, unguaranteed until July 11th, is a bargain at just $1.3 million. He's a competent guard who can knock down open threes. He's also 30 years old, an undersized shooting guard, and not a plus defender.
Will the Pelicans use a roster spot to keep Douglas on in case of emergency? Or, instead, will they keep those two second round picks and hope for a rotation player like the Miami Heat found in Josh Richardson (40th pick in the 2015 draft)?
If not, I'm sure some other team will take that risk for cash considerations.