Oklahoma City Thunder basketball tips off the regular season in just three weeks, and to celebrate being just 21 days away, let’s take a closer look at our favorite #21, Andre Roberson.
Andre Roberson came to the NBA by way of the 2013 NBA Draft where he was selected 26th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves but traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder later in the evening. Prior to being drafted, Roberson played three seasons of college basketball for the University of Colorado. While at Colorado, Roberson was one of the top rebounders in the NCAA, ranking 3rd overall his sophomore year and 2nd his junior year. In his final season as a junior for the Buffaloes, Roberson averaged a double-double with 10.9 points and 11.2 rebounds per game, which earned him first-team All-Pac-12 honors and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.
In his rookie season in the NBA, Roberson saw some, but not much, playing time with the Thunder, averaging 10 minutes of play in 40 games, 16 of which he started. He was often assigned to the Tulsa 66ers, the Thunder’s D-League team at the time.
In his second season, Roberson’s role for Oklahoma City was elevated as he started in 65 of the 67 games in which he played, averaging 3.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.0 assists per game. His numbers were clearly some of the worst in the league for a starting wing, and criticism came in waves as media and fans alike wondered why he was starting, let alone getting play time.
It was in the 2015-16 season, his third year with the Thunder, that critics began to realize why Roberson was so highly praised by Thunder General Manager Sam Presti. While Dre’s averages continued to rise, he only managed 4.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, and .7 assists per game. However, it was in this season that his defensive capabilities really started to show. Roberson proved time and time again that he was an extremely talented wing defender, and not only that, but that he could score when called upon. In the 2016 playoffs, Roberson had several “out-of-nowhere” games where he scored 14 points against the San Antonio Spurs in the second round and a career-best 17 points and 12 rebounds against Golden State Warriors.
As the 2016-17 season began, all eyes were on Russell Westbrook to take over as the alpha dog following the departure of Kevin Durant, but a huge burden weighed on Andre Roberson as he would essentially be the key to the Thunder’s defense. As Westbrook was expected to carry the load on the offense, his defense suffered, so Roberson had to pick up the extra slack, and Dre did a pretty good job at it as he finished the year making the NBA All-Defensive 2nd Team. Roberson also saw career-highs in almost every major statistical category as he averaged 6.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.0 blocks per game.
The major downside to Roberson last season showed up in an ugly way in the first round of the playoffs against the Houston Rockets as he could not hit a free throw to save his life. For the season, Roberson made only 42.3% of his attempts from the charity stripe, but in the playoffs, he managed to make a mere 14.3% of them. Teams will likely look to use that to their advantage if possible, but Dre claims he has worked on his free throw shooting over the summer.
Andre Roberson recently signed a 3-year, $30 million contract extension, and while some critics think the Thunder paid too much, this could turn into a value contract with the way NBA’s salary cap is moving. Night in and night out, Dre is expected to guard the best wing scorer of opposing teams, and he is never afraid to step up to the challenge.
With the additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony into the Thunder’s starting lineup, Roberson will also have more freedom to roam on the offensive end, finding his way to the basket on backdoor cuts and off screens, which is where he excels. Defensively, he will continue to do what he has done for the last couple of seasons, and with another talented wing defender like Paul George by his side, the Thunder may turn into one of the top defenses in the NBA.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.