Andre Roberson's absence is likely to hit the OKC Thunder's playoff hopes

Andre Roberson looks increasingly unlikely to return this season
Andre Roberson looks increasingly unlikely to return this season
Tristan Elliott

The 2019 NBA playoffs are now just a few weeks away, and the OKC Thunder lack any sort of momentum. For much of the season, the Thunder has been challenging for a top-three spot. However, a slump since the All-Star break has resulted in the team dropping down to 8th in the West standings.

The team is just 7-12 since the break, and during this run, Billy Donovan's men have suffered alarming defeats to the Grizzlies, Heat, and Timberwolves. OKC has also struggled to get any major stops on the defensive end, and after boasting one of the best defenses in the NBA last season, they are now behind the majority of their playoff rivals. Many factors have contributed to the fall of the OKC defense. However, the continued absence of Andre Roberson is now starting to be felt more than ever.

The 27-year-old has missed the entire season with a serious knee injury, and it looks increasingly unlikely that he will return ahead of next months playoffs. Last season, the Thunder were 11.2 points per 100 possessions better defensively with Roberson on the court, and the team continues to miss his ability to guard four positions.

While the Thunder have managed to make the postseason without Roberson, the guard's impact will be profoundly missed during the playoffs. His ability to get stops on the defensive end was a significant part of the Thunder's run to the West Finals in 2016, and just a year later, the Rockets did most of their damage when Roberson was benched due to Houston's deliberate fouling.

Due to their late-season slump, the Thunder are heading towards a first-round matchup with the Golden State Warriors, a team comprising of three of the best scorers in the NBA. OKC will find it immensely challenging to outscore the reigning champions, and without a potential huge defensive performance from Roberson, a third consecutive first-round playoff exit beckons.

Edited by Sripad
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