Andre Roberson Leaving Early: What Does It Mean For Him and Colorado?Posted by AMurawa on April 29th, 2013
On Sunday afternoon, the final missing piece in the Pac-12 early entry decisions came down, as Colorado junior forward Andre Roberson announced his intention to bypass his final year of eligibility and enter the NBA Draft. Roberson led the conference in rebounding the last two years (11.2 RPG in 2012-13, and 11.1 RPG in 2011-12) and was the Defensive Player of the Year, not only for his rebounding but also for his ability to match up with players at several different positions. Roberson had previously called a press conference for Friday to announce his choice, but cancelled that due to some remaining indecision. But now that the verdict is in, it will have a major impact on Roberson’s career going forward as well as the short-term prognosis for the Buffaloes.
For Roberson, it wasn’t a slam dunk choice. Yes, he’s an excellent rebounder and defender, but he’s still just a 6’7” small forward with a limited offensive game outside of the paint. As a result, he’s a borderline prospect at best – nobody projects him as a first round pick and there’s a strong possibility he will go undrafted in June. But that doesn’t mean he won’t have a future playing pro basketball. His athleticism and nose for the ball alone will make him a useful piece for somebody somewhere around the globe. But as far as his near-term NBA prospects? Project number one is to do everything possible to improve his inconsistent jumper. In his three seasons at Colorado, he hit a grand total of 50 three-pointers, with his long range average dipping from 38% in his sophomore campaign to 32.8% last season. Throw in an additional three feet in the NBA to earn that extra point and Roberson is clearly not a guy who should be expected to be a prolific NBA shooter in the immediate future. Still, if he can make strides in that area while focusing entirely on basketball over the next few years, he could be an NBA player in due time.
And the fact is that at Colorado the best thing for the long-term success of the basketball program if Roberson had returned to Boulder would have been to have had him once again spend most of his time in and around the paint, playing essentially the power forward spot. But the best thing for Roberson’s development as a potential NBA player is to dedicate all of his energy toward mastering the small forward position. If Roberson winds up in the D-League next year, he’ll have that chance. So, while his prospects of becoming a high draft pick in this June’s draft may be slim, this decision could wind up being the best thing not only for Roberson but for the Buffaloes.
That last part there might be a wildly controversial statement; how the hell could Colorado be better off without Roberson? Well, if Roberson, a guy with the reputation as a great teammate, somehow returned for his senior year with his priority proving his ability to play the three to NBA scouts rather than do what is best for his team’s chances, that could be a distraction in the locker room. There isn’t much to say that would necessarily happen, but we’ve seen that type of thing before elsewhere, most recently with Mike Moser at UNLV. At least Tad Boyle isn’t going to have to deal with that particular possibility.
Still, for a program on the rise, next season looked to be the pinnacle of this burst of relevance. With Roberson along with Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker for a third season together in the backcourt, and with Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson returning for their second seasons up front, that was going to be one heck of a starting five. Remove Roberson from the equation, and we’re probably not talking about a top 10 or top 15 team like we had been anticipating, but these guys still have the ability to become a top 25 team and a dark horse Pac-12 title contender. Aside from those returnees (and role players like Xavier Talton and Eli Stalzer), the Buffs welcome in freshmen Tre’Shaun Fletcher, Dustin Thomas, and Jaron Hopkins, as well as the services of Wesley Gordon and Chris Jenkins, each of whom put on the redshirt in their first seasons in Boulder. While you never lose a player the caliber of Roberson without missing him at least a little bit, rest assured that the Buffaloes have plenty of pieces who are willing and able to help out in his absence. Expect newbies Fletcher and Jenkins to get the first cracks at replacing Roberson in the starting lineup.