Andre Roberson's Injury Is a Big Deal for the Thunder

Oklahoma City has lost Roberson for at least three weeks. That's a bigger deal than you probably think.

Sunday night wasn't the best night for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Not only did they lose to the lowly Brooklyn Nets 116 - 106, but also Andre Roberson limped to the locker room with a knee injury.

Russell Westbrook drove baseline for a reverse layup and came down on Roberson's right knee. Both players were in pain, but it seems that Roberson got the worse end of the collision. The good news is that an MRI showed no structural damage and he will not require surgery.

Roberson was diagnosed with a knee sprain and is expected to miss at least three weeks.

Team Impact

Both Roberson and the Thunder have to be excited that this is not a serious injury, but his impact on the floor will surely be missed over the next month. While Roberson's stats aren't the most impressive, he has a major influence on the game, especially on the defensive end.

With Roberson on the floor, the Thunder have a Defensive Rating of 97.5 which would rank them second in the league behind only the San Antonio Spurs. With Roberson off the floor, the Thunder have a Defensive Rating of 103.2 which would rank 17th in the NBA. 

To a much lesser degree, the Thunder offense drops as well when Roberson leaves the court. The team has a 110.0 Offensive Rating with him on the court (second in the NBA behind the Golden State Warriors) compared to a 108.6 Offensive Rating with him off the court.

That's not nearly the same influence as his defense, but there's still a decrease in production.

Looking at both offense and defense, Oklahoma City's Net Rating with Roberson's on the court is a +12.5 differential. With him off the court, the Thunder's Net Rating is a +5.4 differential. 

Individual Impact

Roberson does not have the offensive stats that will blow anyone away.

He averages just 4.9 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. Obviously, those stats aren't impressive, but his value is in his defense.

Of all guards in the NBA that have played at least 25 games, Roberson is tied for fourth in terms of opponent field goal percentage. The player that Roberson is guarding shoots just 37.8% from the field. The usual field goal percentage of Roberson's opponents is 43.7%, creating a difference of 5.9% which ranks him fourth in that category as well.

On top of that, Roberson almost always guards the opposing team's best off-ball guard.


The two most likely replacements for Oklahoma City are the two backup shooting guards Dion Waiters and Anthony Morrow.

The table below compares the two backups to Roberson.

Player Off. Rtg ON Def. Rtg ON Off. Rtg. OFF Def. Rtg. OFF Def. Opp. FG% Opp. FG% FG% Diff.
Roberson 110.0 97.5 108.6 103.2 37.8% 43.7% -5.9%
Waiters 108.2 102.6 110.5 98.2 41% 42.4% -1.4%
Morrow 109.8 104.7 109.0 99.2 48.1% 42.4% 5.6%

The biggest difference that the table shows is how bad at defense Morrow is. Out of every guard in the league that has played over 25 games, Morrow has the 12th worst defensive field goal percentage differential. While he is an asset on offense, he is a complete liability on the defensive end.

Waiters does not have as big of a statistical drop off from Roberson. The differences are still there, but plugging Waiters into the starting lineup will most likely be a decent short-term fix while Roberson recovers.

It should also be noted that some of the team stats are also influenced by who they share the court with. Roberson plays the majority of his minutes with the Thunder's starting lineup while Morrow and Waiters split their minutes with a variety of teammates.

It is pretty evident that Oklahoma City is losing a premier defender for at least three weeks. In the next few weeks, the Thunder will be missing him in key matchups as they face the Houston Rockets and James Harden and the Warriors and Klay Thompson.

Overall, the loss is probably more important than people think. Roberson will definitely be missed for the time being. Hopefully for Oklahoma City, the injury isn't more serious than that, as he will play a major role in their chances at a championship.