The Oklahoma City Thunder went into this season with no expectations other than to evaluate their young players. While Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s growth offensively, Lu Dort’s consistent shooting stroke, and Darius Bazley’s defensive leap will steal the headlines the Thunder have stumbled into another young piece. That piece is Isaiah Roby.
Roby was acquired by the Oklahoma City Thunder a year ago when the team dealt Justin Patton to the Dallas Mavericks just months after the Mavericks made Isaiah Roby the highest-paid second-round pick ever at the time. The Thunder allowed Roby to rehab a nagging foot injury that plagued him even dating back to his short-lived Mavericks days as the team traveled to the bubble.
After a rough preseason and an influx of roster moves this season, OKC Thunder fans were ready to toss Isaiah Roby to the side. Roby did not even crack the rotation until the third game of the season in which Al Horford was out due to load management.
Isaiah Roby has been impressive, and for long-time listeners of Locked on Thunder and BTB readers, you know that as the mayor of “Roby Island” I am ecstatic!
So far this season Roby is averaging 6-points, 3.5-rebounds, and an assist per game on 61-percent from the floor, and 41-percent from deep. Roby has already produced 3 double-digit nights including a 19-point effort in his season debut against the Orlando Magic. His offensive game is one of the most interesting parts about him. Right now, he is finding the most success when he sets up in that “dunker spot” and is able to be fed down low and slam it home. However, his game can evolve even more. We have even seen Mark Daigneault call out of bounds plays for Roby to get an open look from deep. They really trust his shooting ability.
If Isaiah Roby becomes a better screen setter, that unlocks even more for his offensive game. It is so important to note that Roby is only 22, and this is his first season of true development without injury setbacks and he is getting instruction from what is widely regarded as the league’s top developmental staff.
Defensively, you have to be floored with the production the Nebraska product is giving the Thunder. At 6’8 he is mostly asked to be a small-ball five. While he is not a lockdown defender, as someone who is playing out of position, you are seeing how smart he is. At times he is the leader defensively, getting players in position. When players drive on Roby he is able to stay in front and contest the shot of much bigger players without fouling. The only time Roby has been in foul trouble was during his season debut when he was charged with four personal fouls. This is exactly what Thunder head man Mark Daigneault is asking from him night in and night out. When Mark Daigneault was asked after the Laker game how the Thunder matchup against bigger teams around the League, Mark mentioned simply contesting. Forcing teams to make shots. Isaiah Roby does that as well as anyone on the OKC roster.
When or if Isaiah Roby shifts into a more traditional role for him, even just sliding over to the four as we have seen in certain lineups recently that have him playing alongside Mike Muscala, he can get even better.
Isaiah Roby has only played in eight games, so it is understandable to call this an overreaction, however, an important reminder is that you need to treat Isaiah Roby the same way you could a rookie. This is not a campaign for Isaiah Roby to be the foundation of your rebuild. Your rebuild is built on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Darius Bazley, and Lu Dort. However, Isaiah Roby can at least be the baseboards of your house.