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Thunder player grade: Andre Roberson earned his payday

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The Thunder’s defensive ace left his mark in the playoffs, but how did he do overall?

Oklahoma City Thunder v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Full Name: Andre Lee Roberson

Contract Status: Restricted free agent with a cap hit of $5,457,680. Likely to command at least 12 million per year in the free agency market.

Player History

2016-2017 Oklahoma City Thunder Player Statistics

  • Games Played: 79/5 (regular season/playoffs)
  • Minutes Per Game: 30.1/37.1
  • Points Per Game: 6.6/11.6
  • Rebounds Per Game: 5.1/6.2
  • Assists Per Game: 1/1.8
  • Steals Per Game: 1.2/2.4
  • Blocks Per Game: 1/3.4
  • TS%: 51% / 52.5%

Preseason Expectations

Heading into a contract year, and following an excellent playoff performance last season, the expectations for Roberson were notably elevated. His defense had improved every season, and each season had also brought a significant improvement in his outside shooting.

With Kevin Durant gone, and no other viable player to fill the small forward void, it was clear that Andre would have an increased role on the team. Durant’s departure left a significant amount of scoring and rebounding to be accounted for, and while Victor Oladipo was expected to provide the additional scoring, Roberson was expected to increase his output as well.

Regular Season Grade: B-

Unfortunately, while Dre saw his counting stats improve this season, he also had some key lapses, particularly in his outside shooting. While there were stretches of the season in which his shot was dropping reliably, there were also long periods when no one expected a make, least of all him. His 24.5% mark from deep was a 7% drop from last season, and his FT% during the regular season dropped about 20%.

He remained an excellent finisher inside, making 62% of his shots at the rim. He also showed dribbling skills that were completely absent in previous season. However, a crowded paint due to the lack of outside shooting reduced his ability to utilize these skills.

Defensively, he maintained his status as one of the premier defenders in the league. He was 3rd among SFs in DRPM and was a league leader among wings for contesting shots. He had many remarkable performances that will likely earn him an all-defensive team nod.

The biggest knock on Roberson’s regular season was his shooting percentage. Had he maintained his numbers from last season, this grade would likely be an A. However, the marked drop in those numbers resulted in a similar drop in his grade.

Playoffs Grade: A

Roberson had a playoff series to remember as far as role players go. I’ll start by addressing the elephant in the room that I’m sure will result in outcry at this grade. Yes, his free throw shooting was abysmal. There is no way in getting around that. However, it had a pretty minimal impact; the largest way it hurt OKC was giving Houston a means to get him out of the game. But this really only affected a couple of minutes in games 4 and 5.

Now, let’s get down to business. Offensively, Dre was the second best player for the Thunder during the playoffs. Not only did he show accuracy from outside (shooting 41.2%), he was also the Thunder’s second leading scorer at 11.6 points per game. He grabbed 3.6 offensive rebounds per game, and was able to take advantage of James Harden’s lax (to put it nicely) defense. When used as the screener in a Pick and Roll, he showed smart and quick decision making that often resulted in an excellent look for a teammate.

Defensively, Roberson perhaps had the best defensive performance of any player in this season’s playoffs. He led the leagues in contested shots, blocks, and steals during the playoffs. He was second in the league in deflections. All of this was while guarding one of the top offensive players in the league in James Harden. While Harden scored 33 points per game, he did it on 41% shooting and 24% from behind the arc. He had 7 assists per game (4 below season average), and also turned the ball over 5.6 times. His only reliable offense was via switches or (weak) foul calls. Many of his problems this series were directly or indirectly due to Andre Roberson. For more on his defense, here is a long breakdown of his approach.

It is pretty reasonable to say that Roberson was the Thunder’s second best player this series. The biggest downside is that it likely raised his free agency market value this offseason.

Future Expectations

Roberson’s future could be largely shaped by his destination this summer. If he remains in Oklahoma City, look for many of his responsibilities to remain the same. Hopefully he can make more strides on the offensive end, particularly in his shooting. He could also see more responsibility with handling the ball or driving to the rim.

On a different team, he could develop as a de facto power forward, allowing the team to play permanently small. He could also be moved back to a guard position where he would need to learn how to make a larger offensive impact on the perimeter.

Most Notable Game/Moment

As far as memorable moments go, there are two that stand out to me from this season. The first was when Roberson took a stand after Durant got in his face for a soft foul. Dre is one of the calmest, nicest guys on the court, but he clearly took exception to something Durant said. KD may claim it’s all basketball, but the bad blood obviously runs deeper than that.

The other moment that I took personal pleasure in was the Patrick Beverly block and finger wag. This one is for obvious reasons, and I will never fail to use this gif at any available opportunity.

Also worth mentioning is his Game 1 performance against Houston, when he scored 18 points, grabbed 8 rebounds, and had 2 steals and 3 blocks.