The Colorado Buffaloes will be represented in the NBA Playoffs by two former basketball stars, Andre Roberson of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Alec Burks of the Utah Jazz.
Andre Roberson (2010-13) was perhaps the best defensive player the Buffaloes have ever seen. As a 6’7, hyper-athletic forward, Roberson was known for his ability to dominate any matchup, no matter his opponent’s skill or size. He was also known as the unquestioned best rebounder in all of college basketball.
In Roberson’s two years as a starter, he averaged 11.3 points, 11.2 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 1.6 blocks and had a sparkling 23.9 player efficiency rating (PER). In his junior year, his final season at Colorado, Roberson was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. Roberson is the only Buffalo to have been twice named First Team All-Pac-12 and All-Defense.
After being drafted 26th overall in the 2013 NBA Draft, Roberson is now in his fourth season in the NBA and his third season as a Thunder starter. He’s known around the league for both his incredible perimeter defense and, unfortunately, for his lack of offensive ability. Roberson was never a gifted scorer or comfortable shooter, and while that can make him a liability for the OKC offense in the playoffs, his all-world defense is invaluable to one of the best defenses in the NBA. Roberson is a virtual lock to be named All-Defense first or second team, and he could finish in the top five in Defensive Player of the Year voting.
If you tune in to see the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Playoffs, you’ll likely see Roberson defending the Houston Rockets’ James Harden as well as anyone in the world can. If Roberson is able to lock down Harden and hit a few corner threes, Oklahoma City suddenly has a chance (albeit small) to upset the Rockets and move on in the playoffs.
Alec Burks (2009-11) played only two seasons at Colorado, but oh my god they were incredible. Burks, with his bevy on unstoppable moves and high-flying, acrobatic finishes, was perhaps the most dominant scorer in Colorado history. In his two seasons, Burks averaged 19.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and had an otherworldly 27.8 PER.
Burks was named Big 12 Freshman of the Year in 2010 and was one of two unanimous First Team All-Big-12 selections in 2011 (the immortal Jacob Pullen of Kansas State was the other). Burks declared for the 2011 NBA Draft and was selected 12th overall by the Utah Jazz, which was (and still is) the highest a Buffalo has been drafted since Chauncey Billups was drafted 3rd overall in 1997. That 2011 Buffaloes team, by the way, had three future NBA players in Burks, Roberson and Cory Higgins.
Burks has been a highly valuable sixth man when healthy — and that value includes violently dunking on fools and being the “Vince Carter of layups” — but because of shoulder and ankle injuries, he’s played only 100 total games in his past three seasons.
The Jazz have one of the deepest rosters in the NBA, and because Burks is still recovering from early season ankle surgery, his role is currently TBD. Burks has played sparingly for the Jazz in recent weeks, but if he’s healthy and shows that he can contribute, he can force himself into Utah’s primary playoff rotation. Utah already won Game 1 over the L.A. Clippers and if they win the series, Burks could be in prime position to challenge the juggernaut Portland Trail Blazers in the second round.
Roberson and Burks aren’t the only Buffaloes representing CU in the playoffs, by the way. Chauncey Billups, noted playoff hero and soon-to-be Ultimate Buffalo, is on the TNT broadcast as a pre-game/halftime/post-game analyst. Spencer Dinwiddie, noted cultural icon, is also humorously live-tweeting the playoffs and if you don’t follow him you don’t deserve to call yourself a Buffaloes fan.