When you hear about the Oklahoma City Thunder, you automatically think about two, maybe three players, right? Well, that should change. It took more than Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant for this team to make it to Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals, just one game away from the NBA Finals.
The most underrated player on this Thunder team is Andre Roberson. A player that no one really paid attention to before this season started, only because he isn’t an offensive force like almost every other player in the rotation. However, what people fail to realize..or underestimate, is his impact on the defensive end.
Defense has become an undervalued aspect of the game and it makes me sick, considering I was the same type of player when I played. No one seems to play it anymore, and there are very few defensive specialists in this league. Roberson happens to be one of those few and Thunder fans should’ve appreciated it from the jump.
Coming into the 2015-2016 season and honestly, throughout, there was a lot of talk on local sports radio about Roberson not only losing his starting spot, but many said that Billy Donovan shouldn’t even have him in the rotation. It almost seemed like they honestly thought if every player in the rotation can’t contribute at least 10 points per game, they were a liability. Not true. With the second-best offense in the NBA throughout the season 110 ppg), only behind the Golden State Warriors, there were still problems. They sort of underachieved all season, finishing with a (55-27) record, third in the Western Conference.
Things changed for Dre in the playoffs
Obviously, a lot changed for them to make their big run in the postseason. Many players elevated their game, but a player that surprised everyone and earned the NBA’s respect was Roberson. Other than a poor performance from the entire Thunder squad in Game 1 of the San Antonio series, he played great. He also shut down San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard during Game 6 of that series, holding him to 9-23 shooting along with a steal and two blocks. In addition to that, he became a factor offensively, which caused a problem for the Spurs and especially the Warriors…it threw off their gameplan. Following Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals, until Game 7 of the Golden State series, he averaged 9.6 points per game, double his season average. He was no longer a liability on offense and he was knocking down three-pointers, shooting 52.8 percent during that eight-game stretch. That’s something else he didn’t do throughout the regular season at a high rate, at least.
During his time in college at Colorado, he actually played power forward, going up against players 3-4 inches taller than him. Not only did he play the position well, he was elite, averaging 9.9 rebounds during his three-year career there. Actually, during his sophomore and junior season, he averaged over 11 rebounds per game at 6’7, which was 5th and 2nd nationally. Looking at these stats, and knowing Dre’s game, one may wonder why he hasn’t played forward for the Thunder? This could make him an even bigger threat, knowing that he’s proven to guard in the post well throughout college and he’s learned to be an elite perimeter defender as well.
He can guard almost every position which puts him in an elite core of players that can do so.
Also, this next season will be huge for Roberson as his $2,183,072 rookie contract will expire. OKC will look to extend his contract this summer but if they fail to do so, he will be a restricted free agent next summer.
Dre is an asset to this team. It hasn’t always been pretty, but he’s improved his game and he’s becoming better every year. Following a breakout playoff run, I think he’s figured some things out going into next year and his remaining career. Look for Andre to be a larger part of Oklahoma City’s gameplan next season and into the future.