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New Orleans Pelicans look smart by taking a chance on Charles Cooke III

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A blend of statistics, measurements and makeup support a thumbs up.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Dayton vs Syracuse Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Charles Cooke agreed to a two-way contract yesterday with the New Orleans Pelicans, yet since we didn’t get a chance to follow him in the 2017 Las Vegas Summer League like Jalen Jones, a deeper dive beckons.

NBA lottery picks are far from a sure thing and second round choices infinitely more so, thus, it makes even less sense to put much hope into two-way contract players — they’re a group mostly comprised of either undrafted or regular free agents. That said, it’s the offseason, we’re still nearly several months from the start of training camp, and most importantly, there’s surprisingly a lot to like on the surface with Charles Cooke.

At first glance, an examination of his numbers at the University of Dayton tantalize. Cooke averaged at least one block, steal and three-pointer per game in both seasons. That’s mighty impressive for a guard considering he also displayed consistency from the outside, shooting nearly 40% from deep, and didn’t shy from contact, averaging over five free throw attempts a game. Sure enough, since the turn of the millennium, he is the only NCAA player to record two seasons of at least 1/1/1, a 37.5 3P% and 5 FTA. The player who came closest to achieving the same feat? Robert Covington — he just missed qualifying for failing to get to the line enough.

Ed Weiland, a noted amateur statistical analyst who is best known for seeing Jeremy Lin’s breakout before the rest of the world, discovered benchmarks at each position based on the successes and failures of draft prospects in the NBA. For a player to be a decent prospect at shooting guard, Weiland opines he needs to shoot at least 50% from two-point range, 30% from three-point range, have an AST/TOV ratio of 0.8, and average at least 20 points, 1.3 steals and a combined 7.0 rebounds/steals/blocks per 40 minutes. Notice that Cooke stacks up really well.

Charles Cook 2PT% 3PT% AST/TOV PTS/40 STL/40 RSB/40
Junior season 48.1% 39.6% 1.05 19.4 1.6 10.4
Senior season 48.8% 39.8% 1.33 20.0 1.4 9.1

Because comparisons are fun, below are some noted collegiate shooting guard performances from the last decade.

Shooting guards 2PT% 3PT% AST/TOV PTS/40 STL/40 RSB/40
James Harden (sophomore) 56.4% 35.6% 1.3 23.8 2.0 9.0
Klay Thompson (junior) 46.6% 39.8% 1.1 24.9 1.9 9.0
Terrence Ross (sophomore) 51.8% 37.1% 0.7 21.1 1.6 11.1
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (sophomore) 49.8% 37.3% 0.9 21.8 2.4 11.3
Gerald Henderson (junior) 49.0% 33.6% 1.1 21.3 1.6 9.0

From the numbers above, the best comparison appears to be a perimeter-shooting Gerald Henderson. In addition to these statistics, the two players compare similarly in size, wing span, reach and no-step vertical measurements.

Of course for every success story, there are statistical challengers who fail to even become role players in the league. Weiland’s compilation of shooting guard prospects from the 2015 Draft already reads like a where-are-they-now list: Derrick Marks, Wesley Saunders, Rayvonte Rice and Denzel Livingston to name just a few!

One thing that could separate Cooke from such non-entities is his makeup. In watching a two-part series titled, A Day in the Life of Charles Cooke III, I got the sense he has his head on straight. He’s surrounded by an even-keeled group and his priorities are obvious and well-intended.

Towards the end of part II, Cooke divulges, “Stick to the grind. Be smart. Every person you meet is an energy. If they can’t, don’t stay around them long. It ain’t corny. It ain’t corny. It’s not corny to do your thing and do the right thing.”

Cooke possesses the leaping ability of a Victor Oladipo or K.J. McDaniels and has the reach of a Stanley Johnson or Taurean Prince. Also, he’s no slouch, finishing just .02 seconds behind John Wall in the 34 sprint. (3.16 v 3.14).

Yeah, it’s more than fair to say the Pelicans chose a good candidate to try and develop with one of their two-way roster spots.