My draft preview rolls on today with a look at Chris Douglas-Roberts, the high scoring swingman from Memphis.
As one of the best players on a team that played for the collegiate National Championship, CDR is one of the more well known players in this draft. Most analysts put him as a likely pick somewhere in the low teens to mid twenties, meaning he likely won't end up in Indy unless the Pacers acquire another first round pick late in the first round.
Almost every draft analyst has a much higher opinion of Roberts than I do. While I freely admit that Roberts has "upside" as a potential volume shooter, I am of the opinion that he is one of the more overrated players in the view point of the public. I have several problems with his game, all of which I will discuss below.
Roberts is primarily thought of from an offensive perspective. Because of that, I will discuss what I see as his offensive flaws first.
First, I do not think it is being taken into account enough yet how much of an advantage for Roberts it was to play with the marvelous point guard, Derrick Rose. Like all great lead guards do, Rose made the game much much easier for his teammates, and directly led to many of their successes, and in no player was that more true than CDR. Every team playing the Tigers had to account for the lightning quick Rose, letting CDR have almost free reign offensively in the halfcourt. This particularly showed up to me in the "breakout", which is defined as the ability for a player to get open in the half court against tight pressure without the benefit of a screen. Roberts, because of the attention and "sink" defense teams had to employ to help on Rose and his penetration, had to work less hard to get open than perhaps any wing player in the country. Whether Roberts even has the skills and work ethic to do this basic basketball chore still remains an unanswered question in my eyes.
Secondly, there are many questions about Roberts stemming from the very unique "dribble drive motion" offense that Memphis runs under John Calipari. This is an offensive concept invented by a small college coach named Vance Wahlburg, former coach of Pepperdine University briefly, and is likely the next big thing to become popular in basketball coaching circles. Before I detail Roberts specifics, let me give a quick overview of how this offensive scheme works, then I'll come back to my concerns about CDR in particular.
This "dribble drive motion" is ideally suited for Derrick Rose, a guard who can blow past almost anyone who guards him. The wings in this scheme are wide to draw defenders away from the middle of the floor, and very little if any screening ever takes place, nor does the "dribble drive" scheme attempt to post anyone up. How it starts is the PG is asked to simply beat his man off the dribble and get near the paint. The wings simply wait for their defenders to be forced to help and circle behind the ball to predetermined spots. Assuming the point guard is stopped, a "kick out" situation occurs.
This player who recieves this kickout pass was often CDR. His job is either to make the spot up jumper, or drive past his recovering defender trying to close out on him. By driving past a defender who is probably less athletically gifted (due to Memphis weak primary schedule) and already off balance, Roberts often looked like he had a quicker first step than I think he actually indeed has.
If unable to score, players again behind the ball circle to predetermined spots, where the ball is passed out and another "dribble drive" takes place. This repeats itself as the offense tries to drive the ball constantly against defenders desperate to recover to the three point line. You can see more intricate information on Coach Wahlburg's website if you so desire.
I already mentioned that I think Rose and his great penetrating skills helped Roberts get open, and how this scheme made his first step look quicker. The DDM also made Roberts look like a better passer and decision maker than I think he in reality is, by making it unnecessary for him to read the defense much. He didnt need to scan the floor on his dribble for open people, he was instructed to throw the ball to predetrmined areas of the floor where shooters were located every time. All he had to do was make an accurate pass, not make a decision on where to throw the ball. Now, making an accurate pass is a skill unto itself, and Roberts does do that well, but his decision making skills simply can't be proven yet.
The lack of proof of variety to his game scares me alot about Chris Douglas Roberts. He wasnt asked to screen in college.....can he do it well in the NBA? He wasnt asked to run plays and read screens as a cutter...can he do it? He wasn't asked to get open on his own against tight pressure....can he do it? He wasnt taught to post up....can he do it?
Defensively, the same doubt applies. Is he clever enough to learn how to fight through screens set against him? We don't know.....he certainly didnt do much of that in college in practice. Can he stay effective playing a high volume of minutes? We don't know yet, because Coach Calipari limited his minutes pretty wisely to keep him fresh. Can he defend the low post against a stronger player? He never had to defend the post in practice (or at least not often)....can he learn to do this at the pro level?
He certainly does seem to be a hard worker, and he showed a lot of improvement from his freshman year to his sophomore year. But how much better did Rose make him look, and how much was due to his own labor? It is hard to say for sure. If he worked hard to improve, I find it hard to believe other aspects of his game came along but his free throw shooting didn't. That is a major red flag for me for a wing type of player.
At this point, there are way too many questions for me as an analyst to like CDR and his game very much. While others I have read seem to think he will be a very nice scorer off of quick hitting screens, pin downs, etc etc, I just don't see that. I see a player who isn't exceptionally quick or athletic, but who relies on his quickness and athleticism way too much, instead of a deep understanding of how to play. I also see him as way too weak and thin, and a player who when he drives drops his head and doesn't see the floor well. He drives with poor posture, and doesnt present a big target to catch the ball. As a passer he is easy to trace the ball against, because he doesn't pass fake well and he holds the ball awkwardly and weakly. I think he will have a tendency to wear down over the course of a game and season. I think he may have trouble scoring if his initial move is denied, which it will be by a good NBA defender....I don't see any great moves he makes in combination with another move. I think he will be unable to guard most players at his position due to a lack of strength and quickness.
To me, CDR looks like a developmental league player this year, with real questions about whether he will ever be a productive pro.
However, if you pair him with a team who can hide his weaknesses better than most, you may have a productive bench scorer in time. I think his best fits are teams with a great point guard, such as New Orleans (who I think will draft him if available), or a team that will play a style closer to his own college game. There are rumors that Coach Calipari's mentor, Larry Brown, will incorporate some of the dribble drive offense in his scheme in Charlotte, perhaps CDR would fit in there well. Or perhaps New York would be a nice fit in their wide open scheme, although I don't see CDR being a particular effective screen/roll player.
On the vast majority of teams, and especially Indiana, I see Roberts having very high bust potential. I see no reason for the Pacers to add a player who at best projects to be a poor man's Marquis Daniels, with less ballhandling ability and less strength.
Since I like to project players from the past, let me give something different and project a best case/ worse case scenario for CDR. Let us call it a "tale of 2 Jimmy's!"
Best case? Jimmy Jackson. Bounced around the league, but at times was a very effective scorer, particularly when paired with a dynamic and young Jason Kidd.
Worst case? Jimmy King. Played on the fab 5 with Chris Webber and Jalen Rose, but couldn't stick in the NBA for any length of time.
The Pacers should just say no to Chris Douglas-Roberts.
As always, the above is just my opinion.