Josh McRoberts Profile: The hero we deserve

Mike Ehrmann

Coming off arguably his best season, Josh McRoberts has opted out of the final year of his contract to become a free agent.

Strengths and Weaknesses

There can be only one Josh McRoberts. He's like the Highlander in that respect. What he brings to the court is also singular. He's 6-foot-10, doesn't score much, rebounds like a smaller player, but is one of the most adept passers in the league. Not just for someone of his size, in the whole NBA. For the Charlotte Bobcats last season, McRoberts totaled a career high 333 assists. That was second on the team behind Kemba Walker's 447. McRoberts was their starting power forward. Not many fours play the game like that. By comparison, Jose Calderon had the second most assists on the Mavericks with 377 and logged about 100 minutes more than McRoberts.

Coming into the offseason, McRoberts had a player option which he recently chose to exercise, becoming an unrestricted free agent. In simpler terms, it means this:

Oh yeah, McBob is hitting free agency and looking to cash in on his most productive season. And why not? He was an integral part of a playoff team.

What many may be wary of is his low scoring output. He only averaged 8.5 points per game. Clearly, McRoberts isn't an offensive juggernaut. That shouldn't diminish his value, though. He only attempted 7.3 shot attempts per game. A few more looks will easily get McRoberts into double figures. Beyond that, he has the ability to stretch the floor with his 3-point shooting and aforementioned passing prowess.

For more on McRoberts, I asked Ben Swanson (@cardboardgerald) from At the Hive, formerly Rufus on Fire, to give his thoughts on McRoberts' play last season.

Josh McRoberts was dynamite for the Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets of course) last season. He was the catalyst for their offense, capable of initiating inside-out offense by himself thanks to above-average ball-handling and mobility for a power forward, not to mention his passing skills. McRoberts has an excellent skill set, with dependable range beyond the three-point line and a solid finisher at the rim thanks to his explosive athleticism. He understands the flow of the game very well and comprehends how plays and movement develop off the ball, which pairs well with his eager distributing hand. His high basketball IQ also adds to his cutting ability off the ball and moving into open space as a stretch four. However, he's no perfect offensive player. Sorry to disappoint, but he has his weaknesses. As much as he was a big part of the Bobcats' three-point shooting, he wasn't an exceptional shooter. He took more than 200 more attempts from behind the arc this season than he had ever tried in any NBA season prior, and though he made 36 percent, it's up in the air whether this might be the peak of his abilities. Even though so many of his shots (51.4 percent) were threes, his overall shooting efficiency was the best it's been since the 2010-11 season.

Defensively, McRoberts is no Serge Ibaka -- he lacks the strength in the post and agility -- but he proved to be a fine part of the Bobcats defense. Charlotte's defense is pretty unique (I'm not sure how many coaches could make a top-5 defense out of a roster starting McRoberts and Al Jefferson in the frontcourt) so who knows if that translates over, but McRoberts rotated fairly well in the defense's schemes. Despite great jumping ability, don't expect McRoberts to block tons of shots. He doesn't hesitate to contest them, but he's not a great shot blocker. He might not have been a great rebounder if you look at the stat sheets, but if you notice the Bobcats were the top defensive rebounding team in the NBA last year and understand that Steve Clifford's strategy after missed shots emphasized only Michael Kidd-Gilchrist trying for offensive rebounds, and then his drop in rebounding percentage is more than understandable.

All told, I think we can fairly conclusively say this was one of his best seasons in his career. He saw the most playing time of his career and effectively improved the Bobcats by adding to their spacing, passing and energy levels. They've said they're interested in retaining his talents, but we'll see how far that extends in free agency I guess.

As Ben mentioned, McRoberts will contest shots. Watching the Bobcats play the Heat in the playoffs, it was apparent that he wasn't going to give up anything easy in the paint. LeBron James found that out the hard way.

Yes, it was a flagrant foul. Yes, it was ill timed with the game still undecided. And yes, he deserved to be fined. The league and the officials did their due diligence. In all honesty, though, that was a good hard playoff foul. That is the type of play that sends a message to the other team that it won't be a cakewalk. It's an admirable quality to display when everything is on the line. McRoberts attitude and tenacity are what has endeared him to many fans. Oh, and dunking on Birdman certainly didn't hurt his image.

Fit with the Mavericks

If Dallas does offer McRoberts a contract -- and they would be smart to do so -- it will be with the understanding that he would likely not be a starter. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; it just isn't known if he is looking to remain a starter. However, as a role player behind future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki, McRoberts would still factor heavily in the Mavericks' rotation. Rick Carlisle has always said it doesn't matter who starts, it matters who gets the minutes.

McRoberts' passing ability would play well with almost any lineup. The Mavericks had one of the best offenses in the league last season because they were highly efficient and moved the ball. McRoberts would only further compliment that. He could even facilitate the offense from the top of the key allowing the Mavericks to space the floor and set up shooters in the corners and cuts to the rim.

How he would play alongside Nowitzki could be a concern. Both players operate from roughly the same areas but McRoberts prefers to take his shots at the rim and behind the arc. On defense, the pair wouldn't be any worse than when Nowitzki and Brandan Wright share the floor.

Forget about Pau Gasol. He hasn't played anything close to a full season since the lockout. Besides, McRoberts has a higher effective field goal percentage, a higher assist percentage, rotates better, stretches the floor, and is seven years younger. All of which makes him too tantalizing of a player to ignore. He's not going to carry a team on his back but he does the things that help teams win. The Mavericks should take a long hard look at McRoberts and seriously consider bringing him in if for no other reason than that beautiful head of hair. Dallas would be remiss if they didn't.

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