2013-2014 Thunder player grades: Andre Roberson is a work in progress

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Andre Roberson started 16 games for the Thunder in 2013-14. He's still rough around the edges, but he showed promise in a larger-than-expected role.

Full Name: Andre Lee Roberson

Nickname: The WTLC preseason preview lists "Animal Style," but I haven't seen that, nor any other nicknames, anywhere else. I assume with a name like "Andre," guys call him Dre. Feels like we as a Thunder community should brainstorm some more ideas, though. Dre Rob? DR? Doctor? I'm just spitballing here.

Years in NBA: 2013-2014 (Rookie season)

Contract Status:

Roberson signed a slightly unusual deal for a 1st round rookie, agreeing to 80% of the prescribed rookie scale in year 1 but 120% of it in years 2&3. For a full explanation, we break down the numbers and explanation here.

Year 1: $740,560

Year 2: $1,160,880

Year 3: $1,210,800 (team option)

Year 4: $2,183,072 (team option)

Player History:

  • Played his high school basketball just outside of San Antonio, which is interesting only for the fact that San Antonio is forever imprinted in our brains after this year's postseason.
  • Played three years for the University of Colorado Buffaloes, where he became of the top rebounders in the country. Roberson finished third in the nation in 2011-12 and second in the nation in 2012-13.
  • Selected 26th overall in the 2013 NBA Player Draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Timberwolves sold that pick to the Golden State Warriorswho in turn traded it to the Thunder for the 29th pick and an undisclosed amount of cash.
  • Started 16 games for the Thunder this season while Thabo Sefolosha sat out with a calf injury.

Pre-season Expectations:

After a promising preseason, the WTLC preview had some decent-sized expectations for Roberson. Ramona H was more optimistic than J.A., predicting floor time during the season and a B+ grade:

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.

J.A. was a little more reserved with his expectations, sticking with a C grade and assuming Roberson would have lots of room to grow:

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.

Regular Season Per Game Stats:

GP MIN FG% 3P% FT% OREB TREB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
40 10.0 .485 .154 .70.0 0.9 2.4 0.4 0.5 0.3 0.5 1.9 1.9

Regular Season Grade:

Grade_b_medium

The biggest surprise with Roberson came during the stretch when Sefolosha was injured. Brooks, following along the same thinking that Roberson is basically an underdeveloped, raw Thabo Sefolosha, decided to start him for 16 games. Those 16 games said a lot about Roberson's potential, both who he was this season, and how much room he has to grow.

His defensive rating finished at 102, which was about a point higher than the team's defensive efficiency as a whole, so his role as "defensive stopper" wasn't quite there yet. I wrote a piece during Sefolosha's absence about how effective of a pick-and-roll defender Sefolosha (and Perkins) was. It hinted that the defensive struggles that plagued the Thunder in the second half of the season may have been attributable to the fact that Roberson and the rest of the Sefolosha fill-ins weren't doing a good enough job in basic defensive schemes, thus reducing the overall defensive efficiency.

Roberson wasn't bad by any stretch, though, and in many ways lived right up to our expectations. He rebounded the ball well, averaging 8.5 rebounds per 36 minutes, which is a top-tier number for a guard. He also provided energy off the bench (when he wasn't starting) and shook up the Thunder lineup when they needed a role player to come in and handle the dirty work.

Still, I think anyone watching the Thunder all season saw how much room there is for Roberson to grow. He struggles to defend without fouling (like all rookies do), as his 1.9 fouls per game average out to 6.7 per 36, which would make staying on the floor an issue should his role ever expand. He also didn't heed J.A.'s advice and was abysmal from behind the 3-point line, shooting just 15 percent from range. That's terrible for any position, but when you have "shooting guard" as your title, you need to be able to provide at least some semblance of shooting ability, especially on a team like this where Westbrook and Durant can create such wide open looks for teammates.

He's likely never going to have a huge role, but with Sefolosha almost definitely on his way out, the shooting guard position becomes the biggest hole to fill in the offseason for the Thunder to fill. It's no secret how much more effective OKC can be when they have a shooting guard that can space the floor with his 3-point shooting, as Sefolosha showed throughout last season before falling of this year.

The defensive impact will always be most important from that position though, and while Roberson still has plenty of room to grow in his pick-and-roll coverage and foul management, his natural length and rebounding ability combined with his defensive instincts and energy are a nice foundation to work with.

The fact that he started those 16 games and the team didn't entirely fall to pieces is reason enough to give him a grade that indicates above average performance. He was a rookie, he was raw, and he held his own.

Post Season Grade:

N/A

I'm not going to bother giving him a postseason grade since he only played in two games, both in mop-up duty during the first two Spurs blowouts.

You can sort of understand why he wouldn't get minutes in any of those games, given that OKC needed offense against Memphis, not defense, and that they didn't really need much of anything beyond Russ and KD against the Clippers. Could he have come in and had any impact on the juggernaut Spurs offense? Probably not, as he likely would have found himself just as befuddled as Sefolosha or Butler or Fisher trying to keep up with the likes of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, etc.

Still, with the Spurs likely to be standing in the way once again next year, and with Sefolosha likely no longer with the team, it will be interesting to see if Roberson will get some of those minutes on Parker the way Sefolosha so often has in the past. When the Thunder shut down the Spurs in 2012, a lot of it had to do with Sefolosha's meneacing defense on Parker that completely erased his penetrating ability, something he was unable to replicate this season, putting the defensive responsibilities back on Westbrook.

Roberson's shown an ability to ramp up energy on defense for extended stretches, and that could be a huge weapon for the Thunder to use both to shut down opposing guards, and save Westbrook's energy for the offensive end.

Most Memorable Game/Moment:

It actually came before he ever started any games. In the last game before the All-Star Break, the Thunder came out disgustingly flat against a disgustingly bad Los Angeles Lakers team. Down 14 with five minutes to go in the third quarter, Brooks subbed in Roberson for all of the reasons we just went over: He was young, energetic, and could hopefully bring some life to a team that just looked like it wanted to party in New Orleans the next day.

Roberson's stats for the game aren't eye-popping, finishing with just four points and three rebounds, but it was the spark he provided that was immeasurably valuable. Again, we all say it a lot in regards to Roberson, but that's his role on this team, and the way he lit the fire and helped the Thunder focus and avoid an embarrassing loss was a huge moment for the rookie.

Future Expectations:

It's really going to come down to how much Roberson can improve his offense. He's a good defender, yes, and with the way the Thunder is constructed, the defense from that position will always come first. It's the never-ending battle for the Thunder coaching staff, though. Do they want a guy that can shut down opponents but can't provide anything on offense which, when Perkins is on the floor, forces the offense to essentially play 3-on-5? Or, do they play a guy like Lamb and hope he can figure out his defensive issues knowing he can at least create a little offense and hit open shots when called upon? Or do they just have a Derek Fisher hologram recorded on an iPad and throw him out there for some intangibles here and there?

Jokes aside, that's really going to be the options the Thunder will consider in searching for offseason acquisitions as well. With so many viable candidates in free agency and in the trade market, along with the fact that starting Reggie Jackson at the 2 spot worked quite well, it's highly, highly unlikely Roberson becomes a starter anytime soon. But if he can figure out the shooting woes, he becomes an immensely valuable two-way player, and could absolutely see significant time for a Thunder team that will need his energy and defensive hustle throughout another grueling 82-game season.

***

Player Grade Explanation:
A: Far exceeded expectations
B: Exceeded expectations
C: Met expectations
D: Did not meet expectations
F: Fell far short of expectations

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