Chris Douglas-Roberts: Key Stats
If you don't know who Chris Douglas-Roberts is yet this season, besides the player with "interesting" hair and shorts, I wouldn't fault you. After being drafted in the second round in 2008 by the New Jersey Nets, CDR has had quite the journeyman career. After two and a half years of limited playing time for the Nets and Bucks, CDR took his game to Italy, played with different D-League teams, and auditioned for many training camps to no avail (Kobe gave CDR rave reviews for his toughness as the two almost came blows in one practice). Finally last season CDR had his breakthrough playing quality minutes for the Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets) after a mid-season call-up. You can follow the ups and downs of CDR's journey through his YouTube series I'm Not a Star, which provides terrific insight into his life as a basketball player.
Amid the rotating door of small forwards Doc has brought in to hopefully provide some sort of answer for our weakest position, I believe that CDR could end up being our best option. Here's a quick preview of what we can expect from CDR this season:
Among a team featuring Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, JJ Redick, and Jamal Crawford, the Clippers aren't looking for a lot of offensive production from the small forward spot. The ideal player would be someone who can space the floor by hitting threes at a high percentage and finish at the rim. Fortunately, CDR is someone who fits that exact mold.
Last season with Charlotte, CDR shot 38.6% from behind the arc (see below for his shot chart, courtesy of NBA.com), which would have been second on the Clippers last year falling only slightly behind JJ's 39.5% (third if you count Turkoglu's 44% on 50 attempts). CDR was particularly effective from the corners, shooting 39.4% from the left corner and a sizzling 52.2% from the right corner. In the same way CDR capitalized on having a great passing big last year in Josh McRoberts, many of his corner threes should come from Blake reading the defense and passing out of double teams this year. CDR has made it his goal to shoot 40% from three for a whole season, and he was not far from accomplishing that goal last year. A plus for CDR is that his release is very high, and it's a bit unconventional as he cocks it slightly behind his head, so he is often able to get his shot off even when contested. If CDR can continue his sweet shooting from deep this season, he will undoubtedly be an effective weapon for the Clippers.
Outside of three pointers, CDR knows his role in the offense. When not putting up three pointers, he would take the ball to the basket, attempting only 24 midrange shots outside the paint last season. With his quickness, CDR can often drive past defenders and he possesses a funky slashing ability centered around his odd one handed floater (see his game winner against the Hawks last year), and many side to side gathers and hop steps. Within the restricted area last season CDR was an effective finisher, converting at a rate of 60.3%. His quirky, yet strong attacks at the basket also allowed him to draw fouls and get to the line, where he shoots 80.5%. CDR can also throw the occasional dime acting as a willing passer when needed; he threw his first lob Tuesday night.CDR Game Winner vs Hawks
Role playing small forwards on contenders have a few expectations, and among them defense is the most important factor in a league that features some guys named Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Guarding elite wings has always been a thorn in the side of the Clippers, with a prime example being KD averaging 33.2 points last year in the playoffs. CDR has the tools to be a good to great defender in this league, and certainly the best perimeter defender on the Clippers. Standing at 6'7", CDR has a long wingspan that allows him to guard longer players and contest plenty of shots. CDR also has the lateral quickness and athletic ability to stay not only in front of small forwards, but also most guards. He pairs this defensive ability with a high basketball IQ and plenty of effort. When chasing players around the floor, CDR has his head up and reads oncoming screens, figuring out the best path to stay with his player or fighting through them. You can count on CDR to close out hard on shooters and recover and rotate on assignments.
With CDR on the floor last year, the Bobcats were better defensively than they were with him off the court by about 1.0 point per 100 possessions. Keep in mind that the Bobcats (Hornets) weren't just a pedestrian defense last year, but a top 10 defense over the whole season. Steve Clifford is a defense first coach that is very demanding of his players, so it says something that he chose to trust CDR in closing out games and logging heavy minutes in the fourth. According to 82games, opposing small forwards had a pitiful 8.6 PER going against CDR last year, a remarkable number and a good sign going forward for the Clippers.
A couple weaknesses that CDR has on the defensive end comes from his ability to be out-muscled by giant small forwards like LeBron. But then again no one is really a good answer against LeBron, outside of maybe Kawhi Leonard? Another weakness that comes with CDR is his weak rebounding numbers, averaging only about 4.2 per 36 (for comparison Dudley averaged about 3.3 per 36). With Doc emphasizing the need for this team to rebound better, this may be CDR's Achilles heel and the thing he needs to work on the most.
In conclusion, I think that CDR could end up being the best of the four small forwards we have. With Doc being very open about his willingness to move aging Matt Barnes to the bench this season, the starting small forward job is open season. Should we read too much into the fact that Doc chose play CDR with the starters to begin the second half of the preseason game against the Warriors? The disadvantage CDR faces is that both Barnes and Bullock have had all of last year to learn Doc's defensive system. However, Bullock doesn't seem to be able to put it all together, and in a lot of respects CDR is like a younger, better Matt Barnes with a bit more defensive quickness and a more reliable shot. One idea that intrigues me particularly is playing CDR at the 2 together with Barnes, if Doc ever wants to go with an all-out defensive lineup; I would like to potentially see CDR on Westbrook and Barnes on Durant if we need a stop. Considering our other options, if CDR performs like he did with Charlotte last year, I can easily see him becoming our starting small forward this season and helping the Clippers over the hump.