The Pelicans will not extend a qualifying offer to backup point guard Brian Roberts by Monday’s deadline, an NBA source said Sunday, meaning Roberts became another casualty of the injuries that devastated the team last season.
Roberts started 42 games in 2013-14 in place of starter Jrue Holiday, who was lost for the season Jan. 10 with a fractured right tibia. Roberts made $788,872 last season and, had he not been thrust into a starting role for nearly half the season, his qualifying offer — which would have made him a restricted free agent and given the Pelicans an opportunity to match any team’s offer to him — would have been around $1.115 million.
“(But) because of the number of games he started, his qualifying offer is in the $2.8 million range,” Pelicans General Manager Dell Demps said. “He was a very good contributor to us, and we really like Brian.”
The Pelicans are trying to clear salary-cap space to add center Omer Asik via trade with the Houston Rockets and a much-needed small forward. Since Roberts will not receive a qualifying offer, he becomes an unrestricted free agent when free agency begins Tuesday. He’s free to sign with any team, although the Pelicans could bring him back at a salary lower than the qualifying offer if he doesn’t sign elsewhere.
Roberts filled in admirably for Holiday, averaging 11.0 points on 43.1 percent shooting and 4.0 assists over 42 games in a retooled offense. In 30 games off the bench, he averaged 5.9 points on 39.0 percent shooting and 2.2 assists. Overall, he averaged 9.4 points and 3.3 assists in 23.2 minutes.
He won the NBA’s free-throw shooting title by making 94.0 percent of his attempts. It went down to the final game, when Roberts needed to make three to qualify.
“It’s something I’ll always remember, obviously, when I look back on my career,” he said after that game, a season-ending 105-100 win over Houston on April 16 at the Smoothie King Center. “It’s something I’ll be able to tell my grandchildren about.”
Roberts signed with the Pelicans as a free agent after playing in Germany, where he helped his team to three championships and was known for making big shots. In his first season with New Orleans, he played 78 games and averaged 7.1 points and 2.8 assists in 17.0 minutes.
Holiday was one of three key Pelicans lost for the season last year, joining forward Ryan Anderson (neck) and center Jason Smith (knee).