ORLANDO, Fla. — Andre Roberson has been one of the most impressive players on the Thunder's summer league team.
And he's scored only 12 points in three games.
Yet it's quickly become evident down here in Orlando why Oklahoma City traded up three spots in the draft to get Roberson, the 6-foot-7 small forward out of Colorado.
He does the little things, all the dirty work others perhaps don't care to do. In this setting, it's easy to see how those things fit on a Thunder roster that already has an All-Star duo in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.
“A lot of people focus on just scoring, scoring, scoring,” Roberson said. “But I feel like there's other elements of the game that help a team win as well. And having two great scorers on the Oklahoma City Thunder, I feel like I don't need to provide that right now.”
Roberson makes up for lack of scoring in two ways: defense and rebounding.
He's pulled down a team-high 21 rebounds in three games, including 10 (and six on the offensive end) in the Thunder's 79-78 win over Detroit on Tuesday. He had six rebounds in his first eight minutes.
“Certain guys have a nose for the ball, and he does,” said Thunder coach Rex Kalamian. “Andre knows how to find the basketball.”
In his junior season, Roberson ranked second in the country in rebounding with an 11.3 average. He finished with more rebounds than points in 17 of the 33 games he played before leaving early to enter the NBA Draft.
“I've always been a great rebounder growing up, ever since high school,” Roberson said. “So it's great to kind of have that tool in my bag.”
Roberson's size, athleticism and 6-foot-11 wingspan give him the attributes to be a great rebounder. But he complements those traits with exceptional timing and much-needed relentlessness.
He pulled down 20 rebounds on two occasions last season, once against Fresno State and again against Stanford. In those games, he had 17 points against the Bulldogs and just 12 against the Cardinal.
He remembers both well, especially the 21-point thrashing of Stanford.
“I had a great defensive game,” Roberson said. “I played on an unbelievable level. I wasn't really worried about scoring. I was just out there in my zone just being aggressive and tenacious.”
Kalamian credited Roberson for being a “traffic rebounder,” a guy who crashes the boards and comes away with rebounds despite being surrounded by multiple bodies. That knack was on display against Detroit. It seemed like each time a shot went up, Roberson was slithering his way into the painted area looking to secure a rebound.
Most impressive is how Roberson's 19 rebounds over the past two days have come against sizable front lines of Orlando and Detroit.
“We've played bigger, stronger guys and he's been able to get in there and help us (rebound),” Kalamian said.
Roberson, despite being just 21, said he likes to emulate Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and Shawn Marion. Though Roberson isn't quite as athletic, Marion seems like an ideal player for Roberson to pattern his game after. Roberson said he's often compared to Marion and players like Kawhi Leonard and Matt Barnes.
“You just take bits and pieces from everybody,” Roberson said.
Though his offensive game will need to develop, it's not unreasonable to think Roberson can blossom into a nice weapon on that end as well. He doesn't try to be something he isn't and has a good basketball IQ, which helps him float to the right spots or cut at the proper time for layups. In time, he also could develop a reliable 3-point shot, particularly from the corners, a spot he's already attempting to become more comfortable with.
“Everything on the offensive end can be worked on,” Roberson said. “Not one specific area. Everything in my game can be worked on easily. But just being consistent at hitting a wide-open jumper when it's kicked to me (is important). But other than that I feel like I'm in a good position.”