Little good news/bad news situation here. Bad news is you never want to see a guy have a setback as he’s rehabbing back from knee surgery. That tends to be a bad thing. Good news is the Thunder aren’t sure this is going to push back his return any, which in my opinion is a best case scenario. When OKC lost Roberson before the season, it was obviously a huge blow to their team defense. He’s known as one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA, and given all the talent in the West, he’s for sure an important piece to their puzzle
You can throw him on everyone, from KD to LeBron to Giannis to Harden to whoever, the dude is about as legit a defender as they come. He’s sort of like Marcus Smart in that he’s a complete non factor offensively, but his elite level defense makes him a legit weapon.
Here’s the crazy part though, the Thunder defense has been able to get by without him. I’m talking best Drtg in the league at 101.8. The Thunder were always a decent defending team, they finished the year 9th last year with a 106.3 rating. They’ve been able to do this because guys all over this roster are having great defensive seasons. Guys like Alex Abrines have seen their ratings improve from 105 last year to 96.4 this year, Adams has improved from 105 to 100, George the same 105 to 100, and even Westbrook has been solid defensively, improving his rating from 105 to 102. As a team they’re holding opponents to the 8th lowest FG% and 4th fewest 3P% while making sure to clean up on the glass, giving up the 7th fewest opponent second chance points. They also do a decent job of defending without fouling as they have the 12th fewest opponent FT rate.
When it comes to being active on the defensive end, their 4th in deflections, 1st in defensive loose balls recovered, and 9th in charges drawn. I think it’s fair to say that no matter where you look defensively, a huge part of why the Thunder were able to turn their early struggles around is because they’ve locked in on this end of the floor. That’s why if they are able to get Roberson back at all this season, we’re going to see an elite defense be even stronger. Really they should just care about him being healthy for the playoffs, and seeing as how they could finish anywhere from 3-8 in the seeding, they could have some tough matchups right from the jump once the postseason starts.
So while it sucks that a key piece like Roberson suffered a setback, it hasn’t really hampered this team on the defensive end so far this season which I think every OKC fan will take. I can’t say anyone really saw that coming, I just hope he’s right for the playoffs.