(WTLC begins its final preparation for the regular season with our annual player profile previews. Each player gets a dual analysis as well as a grade of our expectations for each. See the grading scale at the bottom.)
|Year in NBA||Rookie|
|Past Accolades||Pac-12 2013 Defensive Player of the Year, drafted with 26th pick|
|Contract Status||$741K for 2013-14 season. Team signed him to 80% of allowable rookie deal.
Andre Roberson will earn our respect.
Sometimes you get exactly what you expect. That's good news for the Thunder when it comes to evaluating young recruits. This past NBA draft, Thunder's General Manager, Sam Presti, aggressively went after Andre Roberson, a 6-foot-7 Small Forward out of the University of Colorado. Roberson was projected as a second-round draft pick, but ended up 26th overall and then traded to Oklahoma City.
In collegiate play (2012-13), Roberson was named Defensive Player of the Year (ranked 2nd in the nation in rebounding), First-Team All-Conference honors, and he had earned a reputation as an aggressive defender who plays hard all the time. So, it's no surprise to hear Thunder's Head Coach, Scott Brooks, praise Roberson's rebounding and intense defensive play.
"One thing we know about him is that he can rebound," Coach Brooks said of Roberson in a post-preseason game interview. He grabbed 9 rebounds in 17 minutes against Denver Tuesday night. Overall, he has 16 rebounds in 38 total minutes this preseason.
The Thunder is known to send their young, emerging players to the development league in Tulsa. With Roberson being a rookie getting playing time in Oklahoma City will be difficult in an already talent-stacked Thunder team. However, coaches and teammates are high on Roberson. A strong defense and proficient rebounding are two skills that transfer well to the NBA.
I think Roberson will find some floor minutes with the Thunder this season. During the preseason, Coach Brooks played him mostly in the Shooting Guard position. He can easily defend multiple positions, including Small Forwards. With Defensive Guard DeAndre Liggins departure, Andre Roberson fits perfectly as Thabo Sefolosha's backup. He is larger than Liggins with a larger wing-span than most. Twenty-one year old Andre Roberson is set to not only learn from Sefolosha, one of the best defenders in the NBA, but to become a defensive superstar in his own right.
"I'm looking forward to the opportunity," Andre Roberson said on the night of the draft after hearing that he was headed to Oklahoma City.
"No disrespect," Kevin Durant later admitted. "But I never heard of Andre before we drafted him." But now, after going head-to-head with the defensive specialist, Durant added, "He's probably the best defensive rookie I've seen in a while. He makes it tough for me in practice. He's definitely making me better as a player."
I can only speculate that Durant is making Andre Roberson better in return.
I could write a lot about the encouraging signs I've seen from Roberson so far in his young career. While he wasn't quite ready for starter's minutes, he has done well when given a specific job to do. There is plenty I could say, but I'd prefer to let perennial all-star role player Nick Collison do it for me.
Before most of us entered the League, we were one of the main scoring options on our college teams. Offenses were designed to get us the ball. We got features in the media and received all the accolades. When you make an NBA roster, that all changes. All of a sudden, you find yourself on a different level of the totem pole, and you have to adjust. Each team may have three to five guys who consistently find themselves creating their own shots. The other ten guys on a roster have to learn to play off of those guys and find ways to create value for themselves. You create value for yourself by doing enough positive things to make your coach keep you on the floor. The guys who have success in the league and stick around are the ones who understand how to make themselves valuable to an organization.
You do this by embracing your role and focusing on things other than scoring. Sure, you've spent your whole basketball life developing and displaying your offensive game, but suddenly you aren't getting those scoring opportunities in games. You take thousands of shots in the offseason, you work on your shot before and after practice, yet you may go weeks without taking a jumper in a game. But you can't dwell on it, because there is so much else you can do out there to help the team win. If you can become really good at things like screening, passing, defending pick and rolls, communicating, boxing out and rotating defensively, you can have a huge affect on your team winning a game. If those parts of your game become a habit and you develop consistency, you are going to be valuable to your team and have a long career.
The hard part is being able to have the focus to do it over and over again, knowing you aren't going to get a lot of credit.
That is Roberson's optimal career trajectory. If he is going to have a spot in this league and on this team, he is going to have to do 2 things:
1) Roberson has to continue to contribute both on the boards and on defense. He has to learn teams' tendencies in order to do this job better than anyone else on the team.
2) Roberson has to develop a 3-point shot. He doesn't have a floor game right now, and he's struggling to finish at the rim. However, if he can develop a 3-point shot, he can make it so that the Thunder will not hurt themselves when Roberson is on the court. Just like Thabo Sefolosha over the past 2 seasons, Roberson can make himself into a valuable enough player so that, like Collison says, "You create value for yourself by doing enough positive things to make your coach keep you on the floor."
You know which player in this league I see Roberson potentially turning into? "TA." Tony Allen. Grit Grind.
I like that. I like it a lot.
|A||Player has exceedingly high expectations attainable only if they play to their fullest ability.|
|B||Player has reasonably high expectations that are attainable.|
||Player has moderate expectations which should be met with little trouble.|
||Player has moderate expectations but will struggle to meet them.|
||Player should not be on the Thunder roster.|