On February 21, 2013 Josh McRoberts was dealt from the Orlando Magic to the then-Charlotte Bobcats in exchange for Hakim Warrick. The deal itself was the epitome of a blip on the radar move that rarely elicits much excitement. Warrick, acquired by Charlotte just a few months prior, was 30 and obviously not going to be a part of the teams future. The Magic felt the same and waived him two days after the trade, meaning they essentially gave McRoberts away for nothing.
Orlando’s desire not to make was somewhat understandable given his putrid production up to that point in the season. He failed to shoot over 40 percent in 16.7 minutes per game and even his per 36 numbers struggled to offer much encouragement. Still, the Magic were a rebuilding team and McRoberts was just 25 at the time with a track record of success in the NBA despite his journeyman status. He started 51 games for the Pacers in 2011, and shot 38.3 percent from deep in 22 minutes per game. The following season he found himself in Los Angeles coming off of the bench and continued to be successful, albeit in a smaller role. So, there was reason for optimism yet for McRoberts, but the Magic felt different.
McRoberts hit The Queen City as a bit of a revelation. Once uncaged, the Duke product played the best 26 games of his career. His field goal percentage climbed to over 50 percent, his assists climbed to nearly three per game, and he grabbed 7.2 boards per game to close the season. As the old adage goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure; and in this case it was Orlando’s trash that became Charlotte’s treasure. In just a short time, he had gone from an afterthought in Florida to being entrenched as a Bobcats starter, and pairing him with Al Jefferson this past season would only benefit him further.
Looking at McRoberts’ per game numbers for this last season might make you wonder why he would have opted out of a guaranteed $2.6m in 2015, but that’s not where his value shows. McRoberts was the cog that essentially made the offense go with his ball movement. The Bobcats relied on McRoberts to keep the offense flowing to find the best opportunity, and he accounted for 21.6 percent of the team’s assist– an impressive mark for a stretch four. Speaking of stretching the floor, his ability to stretch the floor made double teaming Jefferson a risky endeavor for opposing offenses as McRoberts proved to still be the capable shooter from beyond the arc that he was in his career. With 98.1 percent of his threes being assisted, he was no creator for himself, but he wasn’t supposed to be, and he was reasonably productive in that role. Finally, Steve Clifford managed to hide McRoberts’ defense in his system, making all the more valuable to his team.
With McRoberts, you absolutely have to watch the games to fully understand what he brings to the table.
Now, the Miami Heat and Charlotte Hornets are in a bidding war for his services. Pat Riley saw McRoberts do it all for the Bobcats– shoot from inside and out, pass, and rebound –in their first round series and evidently feel that he has something to offer Miami. Though, as Pro Basketball Talk notes, his skillset could be redundant if Chris Bosh returns, the Heat’s overtures for McRoberts show yet another change in perception for McRoberts. We’ve seen McRoberts go from college star to second round pick, to NBA starter, to bench player and now coveted free agent.
Heck, McRoberts even cut his teeth in the D-League and now has earned a substantial pay raise in the form of Miami’s mid-level exception. McRoberts has been trying to convince teams that he could contribute. Now, like Charlotte, Miami will have to figure out how to use him so that he doesn’t regress as he did in Orlando. As many ups and downs as McRoberts has had in his career, he’ll finally have the longterm job and financial security with his new four year, $23 million deal, which is more than most second round picks achieve.