Just hours after being recalled from the D-League back in mid-December, Andre Roberson was thrust into the starting lineup and assigned as Kyle Korver’s tracker.
The sharpshooting Atlanta Hawks guard was in the midst of an NBA record streak of consecutive games with a made 3-pointer. The Thunder rookie slowed him down, allowing the streak to continue but holding Korver to only nine points on 1-of-6 shooting from deep.
Three nights later, Roberson continued his impressive run as a fill-in starter, ripping the ball from Kobe Bryant on the opening play and limiting the gimpy Lakers superstar to four points and seven turnovers in an easy Thunder win.
It’s the type of perimeter defense Thunder general manager Sam Presti hoped Roberson would provide when snagging him as a surprising first-round selection last June. And it’s the type of game-changing energy that makes him an intriguing prospect moving forward.
“Because of his makeup and his attributes and understanding of how to fit in a group, I think he was excellent,” Presti said of his season.
But that productive stint in the starting lineup also gave Roberson the platform to showcase his biggest weakness.
Andre Roberson is an NBA shooting guard without a shot.
“I understand there will be focus on his shot,” Presti said. “…But he’s not a guy that scores that way.”
Roberson’s will never be mistaken for Reggie Miller. He’s not even likely to become an average 3-point shooter in this league.
But some kind of improvement to his outside game, enough of a stride that teams won’t beg him to take wide-open jumpers with no fear of the result, could be of great benefit to his career and the Thunder’s future outlook.
And Roberson knows it.
“Gotta put the time in, put the reps up,” he said of his summer plans. “Been changing my shot since I got here. So it’s been a little transition.”
Upon arrival, it became clear that Roberson’s ineffective herky-jerky motion needed reconstruction. It had a Shawn Marion look without the positive results.
So the Thunder staff went to work retooling it.
“Keeping my off hand off the ball, as far as my thumb kind of gets in there a little bit,” Roberson said. “And just getting it more straight. Everybody has their own shot… It’s going to help me in the long run. I’m willing to put in the time and trust them what they’re doing.”
In many ways, it’s a reverse case from the norm as this team heads into summer. Most of the Thunder’s guards – Jeremy Lamb, Reggie Jackson, Russell Westbrook – must focus on defensive improvements to pair with dynamic offensive games.
Roberson is the other way around, hoping to build enough of an outside shot to get him on the court consistently enough to allow his other skills to shine through.
“He’s great in transition because he’s one of our greatest athletes,” Presti said. “He shoots a high percentage because he understands where to get his shots from. His improvement this year has been excellent, and he’s a dynamic player on the (defensive) end of the floor.
“But I think if we look at him and isolate him in one skill,” Presti continued, alluding to his shooting. “We’re not really looking at his greatest strengths and how we’re going to use those.”