Nets Add Former All-Defensive Player to Improve Backcourt Depth

Andre Roberson

Getty LeBron James is defended by Andre Roberson during the first quarter of a game between the Lakers and Thunder at HP Field House at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on August 05, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

For the Brooklyn Nets, offense is not the issue. After another dazzling offensive performance in their 136-135 win over the Sacramento Kings on Monday, the Nets are up to an average of 121.4 points per game — best in the league.

Defense, though, has been a legitimate concern at times. On Monday, Brooklyn took another step in addressing that issue.

Nets Add Defensive Specialist

The Nets signed guard Andre Roberson, The Athletic’s Shams Charania first reported Monday.

Roberson, formerly of the Oklahoma City Thunder, was named to the All-Defensive second-team in 2016-17 and was a Defensive Player of the Year candidate the following season. But a ruptured patella tendon on January 27, 2018 derailed those hopes. In fact, his basketball career was derailed for about 30 months because of the injury.

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After a protracted rehabilitation process, Roberson finally made it back to the court for Oklahoma City last season in the Orlando bubble. He appeared rusty — more than two years away from the game will have that effect — and averaged 2.9 points and 3.9 rebounds in 12.4 minutes over seven games. He wasn’t able to land an offseason contract.

Still, Roberson represents a low-risk bet for Brooklyn. If the 29-year-old defensive specialist can even approach the player he was before his injury in OKC, the gamble will have been well worth it for a team in the Nets that ranks third-worst in the NBA with 117.7 points allowed per game.

It should also be noted that Roberson brings almost nothing to the table offensively — not that that’s what Brooklyn is looking for in him. He’s a career 25.5 percent shooter on 3-pointers, and, even worse, a 47 percen shooter on free throws. A first-round pick out of Colorado in 2013, Roberson was regularly left unguarded when he was suiting up for OKC.

Roberson’s deal is a one-year, non-guaranteed deal, per NBA writer Michael Scotto.

Brooklyn waived center Norvel Pelle to clear a roster spot for Roberson.

Ex-Teammates With Kevin Durant

In Brooklyn, Roberson will reunite with Nets star Kevin Durant, with whom he was Oklahoma City teammates from 2013-16. Additionally, it gives Brooklyn a potential replacement for Iman Shumpert if his recent hamstring injury continues to linger.

Brooklyn signed Shumpert in late January, shortly after the four-way trade that landed them James Harden from the Houston Rockets. Shumpert, another defensive specialist, last played in December 2019, when the Nets let go. Like Roberson, he’s also on a non-guaranteed deal.

Nets coach Steve Nash elaborated on Shumpert’s injury last week.

“I’m not exactly sure, but I think one of his early workouts he did something to it, and it’s going to take a little bit of time here,” Nash said on February 9, per Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “I don’t know if I have a date for you, but a week or two is fair to say. We’ll just monitor the situation.

“Let’s hope it’s not obviously going to keep him out long, and that he can get himself in shape. Because that was the thing: He was at the stage where he was trying to get himself into shape, and to have a setback like that, he’s still got to get himself in shape when he’s healthy again. We’re hopeful that it’s not so bad and he can get back there getting his rhythm and fitness back.”

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