A lot of writers, analysts, and fans thought that Andre Roberson's decision to declare for the NBA Draft was ill-advised, but now they can rejoice. The Oklahoma City Thunder selected Roberson 26th overall in the 2013 NBA Draft on Thursday night at the Barclays Center making him the second Buff in three years to hear his name called in the first round.
In the days leading up to the draft, Roberson's stock skyrocketed because of how high advanced metrics ranked him. Kevin Pelton, an ESPN insider, ranked Roberson as the third best overall prospect in the draft based on WARP (Wins Above Replacement Player). Today, he wrote that with the selection of Roberson, the Thunder picked up the single best value of the draft. OKC should be a good fit for Roberson because he will not have to contribute right away. However, it is not a perfect destination because there is already a clutter of similar players on their bench. Daniel Orton, DeAndre Liggins, Jeremy Lamb, and Perry Jones all have more experience than Roberson and should be ahead of him on the depth chart. Roberson will likely be placed in the D-League so the Thunder can see how he develops similar to the way they handled first round picks, Lamb and Jones, last year.
Although it's unlikely Roberson will see much playing time, there's a chance he could be given minutes because of his outstanding defense and exceptional rebounding. There are many players already in the NBA that cannot match his rebounding skills. Moreover, the length, timing, and leaping ability that Roberson possesses will allow him to be a shot blocker and strong defender at the next level. Roberson posted the eighth highest defensive rebounding percentage in the NCAA last year and the second highest in 2011-12. He averaged 2.2 steals per game last year, second best in the Pac-12, and 1.3 blocks per game, 8th best in the conference. When comparing him to other wing players on the Thunder bench, like Liggins and Lamb, he stands out defensively. The Thunder aren't a team that needs a ton of help, but 5 to 10 minutes of strong defense from a versatile defender may allow Roberson to see some time on the court this year.
His offense, however, needs a massive improvement and pales in comparison to anyone on the current Thunder bench. Roberson can't shoot. He can't create his own shot. He can't make free throws consistently. And in order for him to be a successful offensive player in the NBA, Roberson will likely have to spend multiple off seasons retooling his jump shot. What he can do offensively is score off of cuts and get easy baskets on second chances.
Many will remain skeptical about the decision to draft Roberson and stand pat on the thinking that this pick was a reach. But Oklahoma City, one of the smartest franchises in the league, clearly wanted him and moved up to get him despite the fact that he would've been available later in the draft. Roberson is a hard worker and did improve every year at Colorado. Although it's much harder to improve against more talented competition, don't count Roberson out. His rebounding and defense will keep him in the league and his ceiling as a three and D player is not in question.
Whatever the future has in store for Roberson, Colorado fans will always remember him as a major part of the beginning of continued basketball success at Colorado. He was the double-double machine. He had the final rebound and score against Oregon in the Pac-12 quarterfinal that paved the way for a Pac-12 Tournament Championship. He had 12 points and 16 rebounds against UNLV to help Colorado get an NCAA Tournament win in 2012.
Despite impossible expectations coming into this past season, Roberson excelled once again helping the Buffs upset Baylor and limited their frontline. He had 15 points and 14 rebounds in a major non-conference victory over Colorado State. He had a career high 24 points in a road win over Stanford late in the season to help secure an at-large berth. And it was Roberson who was assigned the task of guarding Brandon Paul in the NCAA Tournament this year against Illinois and shut him down despite the loss.
Good luck in Oklahoma City, Andre. You won't be forgotten. Long live Animal Style.