Andre Roberson just re-upped with the Oklahoma City Thunder with a 3-year, $30M contract. It was a well-earned promotion for Roberson, who’s worked his ass off to become an integral piece of OKC’s title-contending team. It seems that with his new contract and with the change on the Thunder roster, Roberson’s role will change for the better.
Roberson has always been known for his incredible defense. At Colorado, Roberson was perhaps the best defensive player to ever play for the Buffs. In his two years as a starter, he averaged 11.3 points, 11.2 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 1.6 blocks with a mesmerizing 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.
Since being drafted in the first round of the 2013 NBA Draft, Roberson has continued to build upon his reputation as one of the elite defenders in the world. At 6’7 with a 6’11 wingspan, Roberson has the length, athleticism and defensive IQ to shut down anybody in the NBA, no matter their position. He’s disruptive, in your way, and he’ll contest every pass, shot and rebound within his infinite reach. For his stellar work on the defensive end, Roberson was recently named to NBA All-Defense Second-Team.
The Achilles heal of Roberson’s game, however, is that his lack of offensive game can kill the OKC offense, especially in late-game and playoff scenarios. But, as you may have heard, the Thunder are bringing in significant upgrades to the team, and those additions will do wonders for Roberson’s value.
In one of the most lopsided trades in recent memory, the Thunder traded Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to the Indiana Pacers for Paul George, a perennial All-Star and MVP candidate. George, a 6’10 small forward, is the perfect player to compliment reigning MVP Russell Westbrook, and he’s also a great fit next to Roberson. George is an elite shooter and scorer, as well a terrific playmaker and defender. His presence on offense will take OKC’s offense to a whole new level. George demanding so much attention out to the three-point line will help alleviate the spacing issues Roberson brings. It will also allow Roberson to lurk baseline and live off cuts, which he excels at, especially with his chemistry with Westbrook. Roberson is going to get tons of baseline dunks and alley-oops, so keep an eye out for him on SportsCenter.
(OKC’s offense will be even better now that they replaced defensive-minded Taj Gibson with sweet-shooting Patrick Patterson at power forward. Patterson isn’t nearly the defender Gibson is, so that means Roberson has an even greater responsibility on that end.)
Perhaps even more importantly than all that, George’s arrival means that OKC can presumably play late-game situations without Roberson. In the past three seasons, Roberson has been relentlessly intentionally fouled in crunch time, and with his 49% career free throw shooting, it’s painful to see him brick his team into crisis. George is an incredible perimeter defender in his own right, so the Thunder can now survive defensively without Roberson on the floor in these critical times. We always want former Buffaloes playing as much as possible, but for this situation, it wouldn’t be the worst thing for Roberson to avoid having his biggest weakness constantly examined under a microscope.
Roberson’s role on offense will change for the better, and that will greatly help the OKC offense as a whole. He’s still the linchpin of the feisty Thunder defense, but he’s more valuable than ever on that end. Roberson is a highly valuable player for the Thunder and it seems his value will only grow over the length of his recent contract extension.