Oklahoma City Thunder wing Andre Roberson is hitting free agency this summer. And the Brooklyn Nets need to avoid him at all costs.
The formula behind my logic is simple: Roberson’s bad doesn’t offset the good. The former Colorado standout just wrapped up his fourth season in the NBA, and he’s going to hit the market looking for a huge payday. Because of the rising salary cap, teams are going to throw around a lot of dollars, and I hope the Nets don’t fall victim to this if they eye Roberson.
Someone’s going to give this man a contract. I hope the Thunder match the first offer sheet thrown his way because he fits so nicely on that team. However, not many franchises can have the luxury of putting him on the floor — certainly not the Nets.
Roberson can play either wing position, but he spent most of the 2016-17 season at small forward because of the Thunder bringing on Victor Oladipo. Regardless of where he plays, he’s going to guard either the one, two or three, depending on who’s the best playmaker. He stands at 6-7 with a 6-11 wingspan. Roberson also has great explosiveness and can move laterally with almost anyone. Playing in the West, he draws the challenge of guarding the likes of James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant and Roberson takes it in stride.
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He’s one of the league’s best perimeter defenders but isn’t going to land on the All-Defensive first team because he’s listed as forward and not a guard. Just from watching Roberson, it’s clear he belongs in the same breath as Leonard and Draymond Green, and his versatility is what makes him such a nightmare. With averages of 1.2 steals and 1.0 blocks a game, Roberson is one 11 guys to record at least one of each this year, according to Basketball-Reference. Additionally, he boasts a defensive box plus/minus of plus-2.1, which would be tops on this current Nets team.
In five postseason games, he went statistically Super Saiyan against the Rockets. And he did so while guarding Harden. Roberson accumulated 17 blocks and 12 steals, working out to averages of 3.4 and 2.4, respectively. Those numbers are historical. Since the NBA started tracking them, only four guys have tallied averages of three blocks and two steals in the postseason: Hakeem Olajuwon (twice, 1986, 1990), Roy Tarpley (1990), Ben Wallace (2003) and Draymond Green, who’s doing it this year. Roberson did it while playing 37 minutes a night, second-lowest on the list.
It was incredible watching him slow down Harden, and that’s the kind of player the Nets need. Unfortunately, Roberson wouldn’t bring anything else to the table for the Nets. He would thrive on a contender that needs a defensive specialist. Brooklyn is not the place for him.
Roberson is a frightful shooter from the perimeter, and so much of the Nets offense is centered around the three-point line. Furthermore, he can’t create off the dribble and, even though I’d label him as a slasher, it’s hard to fear someone who’s, arguably, the worst free throw shooter in the league.
I’m starting from three because I want to start with the good — and I use that term loosely. Roberson has never been a three-point shooter, and he’s never tried to be. Through four campaigns, his clip sits at 26 percent and, on average, he hovers between the one and two attempts per game mark. His stroke was infinitely better against Houston, and he connected on 7-of-17 triples. I don’t believe that’s sustainable.
[graphiq id=”huk2Z8Ke35P” title=”Andre Roberson 2016/17 Regular Season Shot Chart” width=”600″ height=”647″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/huk2Z8Ke35P” ]
The NBA’s tracking stats help add context to most metrics. Coupling those with video evidence can deliver an outstanding thesis. One of the tables on the “shots dashboard” page tells you how close a defender to a player when their shots are beyond 10 feet, and it gives insight to how much respect a particular player has from his peers.
Houston literally made no attempts to guard Roberson on the perimeter. I’m serious — here’s the link. Of the 17 threes he attempted, the Rockets left him wide open (defender at least six feet away) on 15 of them. The other two had the defender between four and six feet away, and that’s considered open.
I’m sure I could hit 40 percent of my triples if the opponent just stopped accounting for me.
(This isn’t a trend, either. Teams did the same thing during the regular season. I’m not sure what happened as the Thunder transitioned, but his shooting woes are going to take some time to fix, and the Nets already have to worry about Rondae Hollis-Jefferson playing the same position and having the same issues.)
By far, Roberson’s most egregious offense is his free throw shooting. No player should ever — ever — shoot less than 50 percent from the foul line. I don’t care who they are — it’s inexplicable. For the season, Roberson shot 42.3 percent from the foul line. That was the second-lowest this season among guys with at least 100 attempts. It got worse in the playoffs. The Rockets resorted to hack-a-Roberson, and the Thunder’s most elite defender made just 3-of-21 foul shots. Talk about confidence shattering.
Roberson’s problem isn’t so obvious. He’s got a fluid form, so it’s shocking. Such poor shooting is uncharacteristic, and Roberson shot 61.1 percent in year three.
Dreadful shooting isn’t the end of the world. It’s something that’s fixable if the work is put in, but, in the short-term, it’s likely going to be the dealbreaker in any Nets-Roberson agreement. And with good reason.
I think Andre Roberson is a great talent, but, as I mentioned earlier, the bad outweighs the good at this point in his career. Outrageously poor shooting from three and the free throw line isn’t something most teams can afford. The Nets are one of those teams, and I hope Sean Marks does his due diligence. Any contract worth more than $50 million is too much at this point in his career.