Let me pose you a question. Who made the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first shot last season? Given this is his preview, you probably have it right. Yes, Andre Roberson did.
Let me revise my question then. How did Roberson do it? You probably don’t have the vaguest memory this time. Let me remind you. It was the season opener against the San Antonio Spurs. Tim Duncan had just edged Steven Adams for the tipoff. Tony Parker eyed the ball in the air and reached out his arms for full possession. But Roberson, coming from nowhere, somehow managed to tip the ball away from Parker, landed the ball in his hand and then scored a layup.
The whole precess only took five seconds, but was enough to show the kind of character that defines Roberson. Believe it or not, Roberson was always ready. And this mentality is going to be more vital than ever in the upcoming season when nobody knows what to expect from the team that experienced a wild offseason.
Playing in a roster that never lacks talent, Roberson has experienced his fair share of critics. It’s not that he does not have his own specialty. Those who pay close attention to the Thunder games all agree that Roberson is a top wing defender and his willingness to do the grunge work makes him a perfect teammate. But defensive achievements are less likely to bring the crowd to their feet compared to offensive feats. It does not help when Roberson airballs an open 3 or passes up an open look offensively. Nor does his reticent demeanor help leave a mark on the court. (His off court demeanor is surprisingly contrary though.)
In even his most explosive games, Roberson’s unique talent is as quiet as his personality. That, however, does not mean he can't have serious impact on the team.
Now that the dynamic is no longer the same in Oklahoma City, the Thunder will have to pick up a new format with people facing challenges that they’ve never met. Roberson considered the new season an opportunity to expand his role. What he has displayed in the past, especially in the coming-out party of the last playoffs, convinces me that he can fit into the new chemistry in no time. He is already an elite defender and a good rebounder at his position. He can finish easy alley-oops when opponent ignores his presence, or score in transition off steals. His heavily criticized shooting from deep has been nothing but improving since he stepped into the league three seasons ago.
Since Roberson earned a starting spot under former head coach Scott Brooks, people have kept questioning his credential. Despite all the consistent effort he has made, people still labeled him the "unlikely force" behind Thunder’s last playoffs run. Roberson probably couldn't care less about all the critics, but he is always ready to play with the cards he's been dealt.