In predicting Andre Roberson’s pro potential, the main criticism pundits and fans have of the former Colorado star is that he’s not polished enough on the offensive end to make it in the NBA.
Two of ESPN’s top analysts, however, see Roberson as having the potential to play for a long time in the NBA.
On Thursday night, the NBA will hold its annual draft. Roberson, who skipped his senior season at Colorado to enter the draft, is hoping to hear his name called at some point during the two-round, 60-selection event.
Various mock drafts around the web have Roberson, a 6-foot-7 forward, going anywhere from early in the second round to not being draft at all. ESPN’s Chad Ford and Jay Bilas are confident that Roberson will be selected.
“I can almost guarantee you that guy is going to get drafted because all the statistical analysis says he should be a really good NBA player,” said Ford, an NBA Insider for ESPN.
Ford and Bilas, a college basketball analyst for ESPN, both pointed to Roberson’s exceptional rebounding ability.
“He can really rebound,” Bilas said. “Rebounding has always translated really well. Some data points don’t transfer as easily. Rebounding does. Guys that rebound at a high rate in college usually rebound at a high rate as a pro. I think he can do that.”
Ford agrees with Bilas that rebounding is a skill that seems to translate better than any other from college to the NBA. That gives Roberson a good shot to make it.
“He is an amazing rebounder,” Ford said. “He’s 6-foot-7 and he rebounds better than most 7-footers.”
According to Ford, the advanced analytics used by NBA teams — it’s basically NBA’s answer to Moneyball — suggest that Roberson could be a steal in the second round.
“Roberson is one of the most interesting players to me because while his stats don’t necessarily always scream off the page, the advanced analytics guys — and many of these (NBA) front offices are going that direction — they absolutely love him as a player,” Ford said. “Our own Kevin Pelton, who runs the statistical model, had him ranked the No. 3 player in the draft.
“What you’re going to see is, as soon as we hit the second round, any of those teams that really heavily rely on those models, they’re going to snatch him up.”
Offensively, Roberson averaged just 10.9 points per game last season in helping the Buffs go 21-12 and reach the NCAA Tournament. But, his 11.2 rebounds per game ranked second in the country, and he was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.
At 6-7 and about 205 pounds, Roberson has the body and the game that reminds Ford of a very unique player from the past.
“He should be watching tape of Dennis Rodman right now because he’s got skills like that,” Ford said. “It’s not just that (Roberson) is athletic; he has a great sense of timing for rebounding.”
Rodman, who was about 6-8, 210, played from 1986-2000. While he averaged just 7.3 points per game during his career, he pulled down 13.1 rebounds per contest — the best average of any player of the past 30 years. He led the NBA in rebounding seven years in a row, won five NBA titles and is now a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Bilas said he believes Roberson left college too early, but said “he’s a good prospect.”
“If you can rebound at that level, he’s going to have a long career,” Bilas said. “There’s a place in the NBA for specialists and if your specialty is going after the ball, you don’t have to be able to score. As long as you’re not a liability out there defensively or on the offensive end, then that one skill makes you a really valuable commodity.”
Of course, Roberson would hope to develop his game offensively, but Ford said Roberson ought to take advantage of the unique skills he does possess.
“I know he tried to show this year that he is a small forward and he can do all that,” Ford said. “He can’t do all that. He can’t do that at the NBA level; he couldn’t really do that at the college level. But, he can be a niche player in the league.
“In the NBA, do what you know. There are so few players in this league that can do everything. Everybody else gets to the league by doing what you know.”
Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.