There is something about Chris Douglas-Roberts that makes the homer Nets fan in me want to root for him. Maybe it’s because he’s always found a way to defy his doubters, as Ben Couch aptly put it in his latest column:
At 22 years old, having completed his sophomore season at basketball’s highest level, Douglas-Roberts has long been overcoming skepticism with outstanding results, though most often it’s centered on whether his herky-jerky offensive game will translate to another talent plateau. There is a pattern here: he succeeds, that success is questioned, he is downgraded, he adjusts and succeeds anew.
But I think even the biggest CDR fan could admit that the player known as “Fresh” made it difficult to support him for stretches this past season. There are theories aplenty as to why Douglas-Roberts’ production and playing time dropped off significantly as the season wore on – lack of aggressiveness, bad relations with coach Kiki Vandeweghe, the emergence of Terrence Williams. NAS and other beat writers have written thousands upon thousands of words dissecting CDR’s play and quirky characteristics. And the bottom line is no one can definitively say whether or not CDR will ever play a permanent role with the Nets. That’s why he’s the recipient of the “Most Enigmatic” award.
Douglas-Roberts had about as good a first two months of the season as could be expected from the second round pick. Playing out of position at SF, he averaged 17.3 and 16.4 points in November and December, on 43 percent and 47 percent shooting. These are not all-star numbers, but he demonstrated the potential to be a decent third offensive option behind Brook Lopez and Devin Harris. But then January came, and CDR’s season spiraled from there. His minutes were cut from 37.6 per game in December to 28 in January. His scoring dropped as well, to a meager 7.7 points per game. When asked about his declining production by reporters, CDR mentioned it was the “system.” The beat writers assumed he was referring to Kiki Vandeweghe wanting to get Kiki Vandeweghe more involved in the offense. CDR never necessarily denied this theory, but took to his Twitter account to say he was victimized.
And that was the other part of the vicious cycle with CDR this season. Nobody was more accessible to his fans than CDR. He always had a quote for the media and he was as active as any NBA player on Twitter. But the things that came out of his mouth … questionable to say the least. Don’t get me wrong, when the Nets were off to their 0-18 start and CDR was trying to carry this team offensively on his back, some of what he said resonated with the fans: imploring his teammates to toughen up seemed like leadership. But as the season wore on, and the team kept losing, it just came across like whining. Then there was the passive aggressive tweet announcing that he had been moved to the bench. “This should make some of you Nets fans happy,” he said. What does that even mean?
Then there was the question of CDR’s aggressiveness. As Sebastian noted on video numerous times this season, as the year wore on, CDR looked like he was taking himself out on offense. Beat writer Dave D’Alessandro thought CDR was doing it to prove a point. I can’t believe a young player like Douglas-Roberts would attempt to pull a “Kobe Bryant,” regardless of the circumstances. But his style of play was different. After taking about 50 percent of his shots at the rim in November and December, CDR averaged only 3 of his 7 FGAs at the rim in January. In February, as his playing time decreased more, so did the percentage of shots he took at the rim: 0.7 of 3 FGAs.
Devin Harris, Courtney Lee and Terrence Williams all appear to be locks in the Nets rotation next season. John Wall and Evan Turner are locks as the top two picks in the draft. Many of the top free agents this summer are SG/SFs. So where does CDR fit in? And do you rely on the theory that with a new coach and better players around him, he can resemble the player who could provide an offensive spark in November/December, or do you wonder if maybe the first two months were a mirage? Quite the enigma.