Going into the second game of a back-to-back set on Tuesday, the Thunder were left without key members of their starting five in George Hill and Al Horford. The replacements in that game: Justin Jackson and Isaiah Roby. For both players, this was their first time touching the floor all year, and Jackson and Roby were set on making the most of their opportunity.
Justin Jackson piled on 8 points, 2 rebounds, and 3 assists on 3-6 shooting (0-3 3pt,) in 29 minutes, but his performance was nothing compared to Roby’s. Roby immediately took control of his debut scoring 7 of the Thunder first 14, and by the end of it having 19 points (9-12), 7 rebounds, 2 blocks, and a steal in 28 minutes.
Roby, the 6-foot-8 forward, displayed a wide array of skills on Tuesday. On defense, he stood firm in the paint, and was not giving any freebies to the Magic frontcourt inside. When playing defense on screens, he was able to hedge on screens and get back to the roll-man before any buckets were exchanged. Offensively, he didn’t lose a beat setting screens, being the perfect roll-man off the pick & roll. Roby’s combination of speed and strength allow him to set solid screen up top, giving the ball-handler an open look, but also the capability to blaze by his defender if they try to help on screens.
Roby’s debut was extremely impressive, garnering high praise from his teammates. When asked about Roby after Tuesday’s game, here’s what Shae Gilgeous Alexander had to say, “He played well, played fearless.”
What To Expect From Roby on Thursday
Roby is hoping to continue playing at a high level in Thursday’s game vs. the Pelicans, but let’s break down what his role will likely look like in this game.
With Al Horford back into the rotation, I am fully expecting Roby to take a backseat role coming off the bench, primarily at the four, but also seeing some run at the small-ball five. Thunder forwards Kenrich Williams and Aleksej Pokusevski, who have averaged 12.3 and 15 minutes respectively, may see a reduction in minutes tonight to give Roby some action.
For the Pelicans, their money maker thus far in the season has come from Zion Williamson. Zion will be trying to brute-force his way down low in order to collect easy buckets on Bazley in tonight’s game. Roby may be thrown into the lineup to face off on Williamson, as his dominant presence defending the paint may come in handy on a player as special as WIlliamson.
The Maledon-Roby pick & roll’s were one of the best plays in the whole preseason, if Roby does see the court with Theo, expect some fireworks. A lineup structured with Roby and Maledon surrounded by shooters will be lethal as defenders will either give up easy points off screens or allow for wide open three balls from those sitting outside.
For Roby, I realistically see him getting 10-15 minutes on Thursday, be ready some screens and a lot of defense.