After all, the Thunder is, by all accounts, still considered a young team, so when he said earlier this week to The Oklahoman, “It’s not like any rookie is going to come in and have an immediate impact, especially on our team,” he’s got a pretty decent point.
The Thunder return a lot of talent, and they basically get what feels like a lottery pick in Russell Westbrook, who should be healthy and ready to go when the season starts, so Durant’s take is solid that there just aren’t a lot of minutes for anyone else when you have Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Thabo Sefolosha, Reggie Jackson, Nick Collison and more back on a team that won 60 games a season ago.
But I sure like Andre Roberson’s chances.
Roberson, along with Thunder draftees Steven Adams and Grant Jerrett answered questions for the first time in front of the Oklahoma City media Saturday afternoon, all smiles and full of hope and promise.
But only Roberson faced up against the great Durant.
And I like that, too.
“He’d be surprised?” Roberson said of KD’s comments about Roberson pitching in this year. “I guess that’s a challenge. I’m going to take that on. Get in there and show him what I can do.
“He’ll be shocked.”
Well, most everyone probably would be, considering Roberson, off of three years at Colorado, was projected to be taken somewhere midway into the second round. Instead, the Thunder traded up to get him, moving up three spots to select the 6-foot-7 Pac 12 Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
But of the three players the Thunder selected, Roberson doesn’t just have the best chance to contribute, he has the best chance to be a star.
He can rebound. He wants to play defense. He can go score. And here’s a wildcard for you – he smiles.
Roberson averaged 11.2 rebounds along with 10.9 points, making it two years in a row he averaged a double-double. I like 6-7 guys who want to rebound. Roberson is exactly what the Thunder need – someone who can guard multiple positions and can also go create a shot. Too often in the playoffs the Thunder became a one-dimensional, jump-shooting team. Roberson gives Oklahoma City another player who wants and invites the contact.
“He’s a player we see guarding multiple positions,” general manager Sam Presti said. “We know his attitude and his mindset is going to be open to be guarding anyone.”
And his attitude and mindset were on full display Saturday, not only standing up to Durant’s prediction, but laughing it off. Always good to see a player, especially a young one, who isn’t interested in mean-mugging in front of the cameras. Tough doesn’t really play well in the real world. It works in the movies and it works on the basketball court, but on introduction day, give me a guy who doesn’t take himself too seriously.
“I take it on as a challenge to go up against him in practice and compete every day,” Roberson said of playing against Durant.
No doubt, the Thunder need help in the middle. Kendrick Perkins is not a scorer and didn’t contribute much rebounding in the playoffs. Adams is a quick, big man, who could fill some of that void. But the days of the dominant big man are behind us. Aside from Roy Hibbert in Indiana and a few others, including Dwight Howard, having a center is not a requirement.
Playing some defense is.
Roberson said Durant will be shocked when Durant sees his game.