OKC Thunder evaluation: Andre Roberson still likes his chances to come back healthy and help the cause

AP Photo

Oklahoma City's Andre Roberson (21) attempts to block the shot of Boston's Kyrie Irving on Nov. 3, 2017, at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

The NBA draft is less than 10 days away and, unlike last season, the Thunder actually have a first-round selection with the 21st pick.

A year ago, though it wasn’t their pick and they traded for him after he was selected by Brooklyn, the Thunder made fine use of Hamidou Diallo the first half of the season after he was chosen 45th. This time around, perhaps they can find somebody who will make a still greater impact.

So, consider that.

Also consider where Oklahoma City might be next season given — beyond help found in the draft — Paul George returning to full health, Jerami Grant’s development taking another leap, Terrance Ferguson’s continued rise as a defender and shooter, Diallo taking another step, maybe Patrick Patterson shooting his way into staying on the floor and a once again, healthy, ready and hungry … wait for it … Andre Roberson.

Given all that’s happened to Roberson since he was last on the floor, at Detroit on Jan. 27, 2018, having ruptured the patellar tendon in his left leg, his coming back may feel like it won’t ever arrive.

Still, it may.

He believes it will.

And, should Roberson come back limited only by his imagination rather than any permanent physical ill effects of an original reparative surgery and various follow up procedures, where might the Thunder be then?

Heck, where might they have been this season with an additional elite defender in the fold, with Roberson upping the second unit’s defensive possibilities or, had he returned to the starting lineup, with Ferguson’s skills bolstering the second unit.

Entering the All-Star break, Oklahoma City carried the league’s best defensive rating by more than a point, giving up 102.9 points for every 100 opponent possessions.

Yet, the Thunder could not keep it up. The figure was 109.9, good for 13th in the league, in the season’s second half. Had he been healthy, Roberson might have helped immensely.

He met the media on April 25, after Oklahoma City was eliminated from the playoffs by Portland, and made it sound like he really was, finally, on the way back.

“I’m on track to return for training camp,” he said. “So, as of right now, still waiting on the bone to fully heal, but making great progress … Running.”

Previously, Roberson believes he was 85 to 90 percent back, but heard a “crunch” as he went up for a dunk. An x-ray revealed a bone crack that made it clear he would be returning no time soon. Despite some admitted tears at the time, he’s nothing but positive now.

“I believe everything happens for a reason, and it kind of helped me grow and learn different aspects of the game,” he said. “Not only the game, but myself. [I can] grow from that and take it and use it the rest of my life.”

Roberson has never been particularly offensive minded or much of a shooter. Still, he’s been an efficient offensive player, averaging 6.6 points in 2016-17, while shooting 46.4 percent from the field and 5 points per game, while shooting 53.7 percent over 39 games in 2016-17.

He hasn’t shot 50 percent from the free-throw line since making 61.1 percent of his attempts in 2015-16, yet if there’s anything he’s been able to work on despite his injuries, it's that.

Just maybe, there’s a lot of upside remaining for Andre Roberson.

“I’ve got a summer ahead of me, I’ve got a chance to kind of work out some of the rustiness, get some pick-up in eventually and kind of get a feel for the game, and … get adjusted,” he said. “I’ve been working out, lifting, so I’ve definitely added some strength … It’s definitely going to be a challenge, but it’s going to be fun.”

Editor's note: This is the final installment of a 13-part series evaluating Thunder personnel under contract heading into the 2019-20 season.

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