But it’s always on a case-by-case basis. And in the case of Roberson and Adams, being thrown into this kind of fire is likely best.
Neither projects as a future All-Star. Neither would thrive in an offense that would rely on their production. But they’re both the rare type of rookies who already understand, it seems, that their career in the NBA is as defensive-minded role players.
And the Thunder remains an organization that both cultivates and supports that type of attitude.
“We love what they are,” Durant said.
And in their time in the starting lineup, Roberson and Adams did an admirable job filling the Perkins/Sefolosha void, allowing the Thunder to maintain a defensive identity.
In 62 minutes played together, the five-man lineup of Adams, Roberson, Durant, Westbrook and Serge Ibaka allowed only 78 points per 100 possessions, a mark that would rank them among the league’s elite. They grab 78.6 percent of available rebounds, also a mark high above league average, and have outscored opponents 136-98.
Adams remains a work in progress, an athletic 7-footer still trying to hone his raw skills. And Roberson’s lack of an outside shot can disrupt offensive flow. But when surrounded by superstar scorers, the weaknesses can be masked and the strengths shine through.
And because of that, the Thunder won at a steady enough rate to maintain one of the league’s best records. OKC is 7-3 this season with both rookies in the starting lineup and 9-7 with just one of the two.
An impressive rookie season and recent stretch for both Roberson and Adams, where they clearly weren’t the stars, but proved to have an early ability to soundly play their roles.