Andre Roberson’s Case For First Team All-Defense

Andre Roberson, the 25-year-old Oklahoma City Thunder forward, has played a major part in building a top-10 defense.

When Andre Roberson was acquired by the Oklahoma City Thunder in a trade the night of the 2013 NBA Draft, Thunder front office personnel weren’t sure what they had.

The fit was apparent, as Roberson checked off all of the measurables that general manager Sam Presti had historically valued: athletic swingman, tremendous wingspan, Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.

But how his game would translate was a complete mystery, as evidenced by most projections of Roberson being a second-round pick.

Fast forward four years and Roberson is drumming up serious consideration for his first All-Defensive selection of his career.

Roberson’s defense was first spotlighted in last season’s playoffs, particularly in his play against the San Antonio Spurs and Kawhi Leonard.

Roberson then carried that defense over to the next round against the 73-win Golden State Warriors, spearheading a hyper-switching, super aggressive defensive gameplan that had the Warriors reeling for most of the series.

This season, Roberson has carried that momentum over. Currently ranked fifth in ESPN’s defensive real plus-minus rankings at the small forward position, Roberson routinely guards the best player on the opposite end in a lineup filled with plus defenders.

It’s been a rapid ascension to being known as one of the best perimeter defenders in the association for Roberson.

But it’s been because of all the work Roberson has logged behind the scenes. Roberson is on the record as being one of the biggest film junkies in the entire association.

In an interview with the Norman Transcript earlier this week, Roberson talked about watching film at any and all hours of the day.

It’s a fascinating glimpse into how Roberson approaches different players night to night, varying from the likes of James Harden and Kawhi Leonard to Klay Thompson and Nicolas Batum.

Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan said this in the interview:

“Last year with Serge [Ibaka] and with Kevin [Durant] and with Dion [Waiters], Andre was always a great defender. He was always guarding really good players, but we had other guys. Now, there are games he really guards 1 through 4 for us, and he does a great job.”

Roberson even guarded former teammate Durant in the Golden State Warriors-Thunder game on Feb. 11 that doubled as Durant’s return to Oklahoma City and ensured no love was lost in the process.

As Roberson winds down his fourth season in the NBA, his footprint on the game each night is apparent, even if the box score impact is not always there.

Roberson is averaging 6.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.0 assists per night while shooting 24.6 percent from the 3-point line, the most scrutinized facet of his game.

Though the Thunder still thirst for more floor spacing and Roberson isn’t helping to quench that, his defense and propensity to make momentum-changing plays on both ends has forced Donovan to play him 30 minutes a night.

Like many teams, the Thunder are at their best when the pedal is down and they’re operating at full speed. Players such as Westbrook, Roberson and Victor Oladipo help gas the engine that has driven them to an unlikely playoff berth and first round date with the Houston Rockets.

Roberson will surely be receiving a healthy dose of the MVP candidate Harden for the duration of the series. My guess is he’s already started pouring through the film on “The Beard”.

This article originally appeared on