Upon hearing Brian Roberts' name this summer, how many people first thought of the Major League Baseball All-Star second baseman for the Baltimore Orioles? I know I did. Outside of a few loyal Ohio and German fans, our Roberts is a complete unknown among NBA fans. So is it wise to have any expectations of him entering the upcoming season?
Wealth of Experience
Roberts may be a rookie, but this 26 year old doesn't lack big game experience. In his 4 years as a Dayton Flyer, he led the team in scoring 3 times and never shot below 40 percent from long range. He garnered many prestigious nominations, including the John Wooden Award, Naismith Award and the Bob Cousy Award. However, it was his penchant for coming up big in important games or clutch in the final moments that had fans adhering their allegiances to the dynamo scoring point guard.
After graduation, Roberts was passed over in the 2008 NBA Draft, so he decided to go overseas, first to Israel for a year and then Germany for the following three. It was with Brose Baskets of Bramburg, Germany that made him relevant to NBA scouts. Courtesy of The Advocate:
Brose won the German National Championship and the German National Cup all three years Roberts was with the team.
More important was his development. His first two seasons, 2010-11 and 2011-12, he said, he came off the bench and his job was to score and be aggressive.
"Mostly, I played (shooting guard) my first year in Germany," said Roberts. "Then, my second year, I played about 60 percent two guard and 40 percent point guard."
All the while, he said, he was learning the nuances of running a team from Brose’s starting point guard, John Goldsbury. Then, as Roberts’ third season began, Goldsbury became injured.
"I was put into the starting position," Roberts said, "And I got better each game and just tried to keep learning from him and also just pick up different things.
"That’s when I flourished, I think. I really felt comfortable being the starting point guard of a high-level European team. I really benefited from playing for a coach who ran a structured system."
Roberts' NBA Break
Brose's head coach, Chris Fleming, is well acquainted with Hornets assistant General Manager Tim Connelly, and out of this relationship, the Hornets decided to extend a summer league invitation to Roberts. He did not disappoint, averaging 13.8 points, 1.2 threes, 2.2 assists, and 2.0 rebounds on outstanding Nash-like shooting (50 FG%, 55 3FG% and 94 FT%) but without the costly turnovers (2.4). Not surprisingly, the Hornets signed him in August to give valuable depth behind two largely unproven PGs in Greivis Vasquez and Austin Rivers.
Outside the numbers, he can serve as a prototypical point guard in the Hornets' offense. In today's landscape, it is vital to have a player who can match up with opposing quick and shifty point guards on both sides of the floor.
Monty Williams has recently stated he's a fan of Roberts' defense, scoring and tenacity:
However, one thing that likely is in Roberts’ favor is that his defense has impressed Williams, whose system is a lot about stopping the opponent.
"Defensively, he’s tough," Williams said. "He can get through screens, and he’s a hungry guy."
Roberts’ scoring is not lost on the coach, either.
"He can put the ball in the hole," Williams said, "coming off screens, attacking the basket, knocking down jump shots.
Through 4 preseason games, Roberts has played admirably and arguably better than his summer league performance. In just over 24 minutes a game, he has averaged 12 points, 1.5 threes, 2 rebounds, 5 assists and 1 steals. Within this short sample size, his efficiency has been head and shoulders above the other Hornets PGs: 1.25 turnovers and a shooting line of 45/46/87.5 (2FG%/3FG%/FT%).
More impressively, Roberts has served a key role in 2 of our comeback wins. His late-game leadership cannot be overlooked on a team that in the off season lost its best veteran presence in Jarrett Jack and continues to be hampered by Eric Gordon's inability to get onto the court.
At this point, it is unlikely that Roberts cracks the starting rotation or even plays a major contributing role. The Hornets have invested much time and money into Vasquez and Rivers, so they will probably be given a long leash. The ultimate goal isn't to win as many games as possible this season, it is to build towards something special further down the road.
However, should injury enter the equation or the Vazquez/Rivers/Gordon combo struggle for a prolonged period, Brian Roberts makes for a more than acceptable plan B option. He has game and would be able to hold his own most nights. That's more than some other teams can say, like the Washington Wizards who are currently scrambling to replace John Wall's minutes.