(WTLC continues its annual player preview for the expected roster this upcoming season. Today is 3rd year guard/forward Andre Roberson. Expect a player preview every day leading up to the beginning of the regular season.)
(Correction: previous version of story stated that Anthony Morrow led league in 3-point shooting last year. Morrow finished 6th overall last season. Story has been updated.)
Andre Roberson is a great wing defender. Let's start there.
Because of this fact, Roberson has the inside track as the starting shooting guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder. His lockdown presence sets the tone for the entire OKC perimeter defense.
Roberson's feat of ranking third among shooting guards in defensive real plus/minus (+3.30), as well as holding his opponents 4.3 percent worse than what they normally shoot, is notable. In Thunder’s upcoming title-contending season, there will be plenty of offense, propelled by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. However, as we saw with last year's Warriors team, offense is not enough. Something subtle but fundamental, Roberson's defensive-first mentality, must also set the tone. And If Roberson wants to justify his own statement this May of being seen as the best defender in the league, he has to build upon his defensive calling card. Considering the fact that there is currently a glut of shooting guards for different game scenarios, Roberson will wrestle at the guard position for valuable minutes. Roberson’s defensive game needs to be in full swing every minute he’s on the court.
Before Roberson tackles his opponent’s attack on the court, his coach’s defensive blue print has already done him a favor. It has been reported that Billy Donovan's scheme attempts to limit opponents’ three-point shooting. The tweak in defense starts from near the arc as the first-year coach intends to let his big men laid back and will reply more on his guards in pick-and-roll coverage, pressing the perimeter. The success of the attempt hinges on Roberson's ability to avoid the screens and maintain awareness of where his bigs are positioned.
The better he can stifle his matchups early in the game, the more minutes Roberson will earn. That can even mean a spot in clutch time. Best case scenario, he can established himself as a member of NBA All-Defensive Team.
In the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first three preseason games, Andre Roberson was slotted to the starting guard position while taking two, two, and three shots respectively. This parallels exactly what happened in his sophomore season and is likely to serve as a prognostic of his next year with the Thunder.
As for his offense, his stat sheet can be a little plain in points, but he has the ability to find consistency by knocking down open looks. Since there will be a chunk of time when the team is on the run, adding some quick transition points is a plus. Roberson's improved ball handling skills has shown that he's comfortable leading the fast break as well as finishing it.
While Roberson's 3-point shooting is still sub-par, making him unreliable to take critical shots in the 4th quarter, he has both the time and the teaching to get better. His teammate Anthony Morrow happened to be one of the best 3-point shooters last season, and has spoken about how playing against Roberson in practice has made Morrow a better 3-point shooter. Ideally Morrow can return the favor to Roberson when it comes to shooting.
A great thing about team sports is that you don’t necessarily have to be versatile to make an impact. Handling your own business to the fullest can also leave your mark. Roberson, the 2013 Pac-12 Defensive Player, should know where his expertise lies more than anyone else.