September 23, 2017

Does Andre Roberson’s deficiencies and bad FT shooting outweigh his defense?

2017/04/26 9:56 am 9:56 am9:56 am0 0 comments

I have a lot of respect for NBA players that grind and “energy” their way into an NBA team’s rotation. I have a great appreciation because these players were the one of, if not, THE best players at every level and now they’re doing the dirty, unglamorous work. They come in to guard the opponent’s best player, chase down offensive rebounds, and go after loose balls with abandon.

All that said, these players are still basketball players playing at the highest level in the world. So, how does an NBA player miss 18 of 21 free throws? Particularly frustrating is that Andre Roberson is a small forward, not a power position where we associate with poor free throw shooting.

We under that Roberson specializes in defense. We got that, but he still starts at the three spot for the Oklahoma City Thunder and we expect him to do more.

History of Defensive Specialists

The NBA has seen plenty of players that have toughed it out. Ones that started out in the NBA as defensive specialists, energy or blue-collared guys. But for these players to have an actual NBA career, they can’t be one-dimensional; they ultimately have to develop another skill or three. Normally these players work themselves into a decent three point shooter, an enforcer, a tenacious rebounder, a great passer, or a combination of those skills. And they usually shoot above 65% from the free throw line.

Again, there have been dozens of undrafted or second round players that came into the league as effort players but became great role players and core rotation players. Some of those players that come to mind are Bruce Bowen, Patrick Beverley, Danny Green, Reggie Evans, Luc Mbah a Moute, and Raja Bell.

The Andre Roberson Case

Andre Roberson was a first round draft pick (#26) and he’s now four seasons into his career, but is seemingly going in the wrong direction. This season Roberson started 79 games, played a career high 30 minutes a game; averaged 6 points, 5 rebounds, one assist, shot 24% from three and 42% from the free throw line. (Two season ago, Roberson shot a career high 31% from three)

In all the “Hack-A” strategies that I’ve watched employed during a game, I’d say that most of the time it didn’t impact the game outside of frustrating fans and viewers. However, when the Rockets purposely sent Roberson to the line, it was one of the more effective times it’s been used.

After missing his fourth free throw in a row during Game 4, the Thunders’ frustration was palpable. The same happened in Game 5 when Roberson missed two consecutive free throws with 2:44 left and the Thunder down 8, it further deflated an already-exhausted and desperate Thunder team looking for a basket. Roberson would split his next trip and would end up 3-21 from the free throw line during the series.

You live with Andre Drummond and DeAndre Jordan because they eat up rebounds and defend the paint. When not at the free throw line, Jordan is particularly intimidating on offense and defense. Roberson? On offense, he’s laughably-limited.

Due to his poor shooting, defenders leave him to double other players. He can’t pass back to Russell Westbrook fast enough. The only time opponents defend him is to intentionally foul him so they can watch him brick free throw after free throw.

As if it wasn’t obvious by now, I don’t see Roberson’s defense negating all the glaring deficiencies that he has on the court. Rebounds okay. Doesn’t pass well. Not much of an enforcer (save for one dustup with Kevin Durant). Can’t score consistently. Can’t shoot from anywhere.

If the Thunder hope to extend the career of Westbrook and make it deeper into the playoffs, they’ll need to find someone that can relieve some of the offensive burden and Roberson can still play a role. Until he finds a niche on offense, Roberson will be never be more than bench player that comes in to defend and provide energy.

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