The San Antonio Spurs made their highest profile signing since the official start of the new league year with the acquisition of Isaiah Roby, claiming him off waivers after he was released by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
For those unfamiliar, Roby is a 24-year-old power forward who was drafted 45th in the 2019 draft by the Pistons out of the University of Nebraska. The 6’8” big man improved in each of his three years in the league and even scored in double-digits for the first time in his career last season, which made his release a slight surprise.
The numbers are encouraging. Roby averaged 10.1 points per game in 45 games (28 starts), shooting 51.4% from the floor on 7.2 field goal attempts while connecting on a very impressive 44.4% from three on a modest 2.2 attempts. He also recorded 4.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and nearly a block and a steal per game.
The most promising part of Roby’s game is his offense, where there is great potential for him to be a consistent double-figure scorer on good efficiency thanks to his finishing ability. Per Synergy Sports, he was mostly used as a P&R Roll Man (24% of the time) where he scored 1.109 points per possession. Spot up attempts accounted for 21% of the possessions he finished, and he scored a respectable 1.022 points per attempt. While those numbers are solid, the best part of his offense is his transition game, which should complement the current group of young Spurs who really started to push the pace last season. The athletic forward was in the top 78 percentile on points scored per possession in transition, shooting 59.7% when running the floor.
In terms of defense, Roby isn’t too shabby either. He’s versatile and has good lateral quickness, which helps him guard the pick and roll. As the big man defender, Roby only allowed ball handlers to shoot 42% on 227 possessions per Synergy Sports. His mobility does come at the expense of strength, however. One area of improvement for the 24-year-old is his post defense, as he sometimes gets too easily moved on the block. Opponents shot 64.4% against Roby in the post, where he spent a significant amount of his time on defense. He can be a small-ball center, but it’s clear he can struggle against bigger players.
The big question now for San Antonio after this addition is how they will allocate forward/center minutes with Roby, Jeremy Sochan, Jakob Poeltl, Zach Collins, Doug McDermott, Keita Bates-Diop, Gorgui Dieng and two-way player Dominick Barlow currently on the roster. With this many players in the frontcourt, don’t be surprised if there are further moves down the line — most likely with release of Bates-Diop and/or possible trading of veterans such as Jakob Poeltl or Doug McDermott. Assuming some playing time does become available, Roby should fit nicely into the backup four role playing behind Sochan, where hopefully he’ll get the opportunity to show the front office that they should keep him beyond this season, when his contract is set to expire.
The Spurs’ addition of Roby shouldn’t be considered a big move, but it’s the type of low-risk, potentially high-reward gamble on a young player with two-way potential that a rebuilding team should make. Now it will be up to the coaching staff to find him a role and on Roby to repay San Antonio’s trust by producing and improving.
Welcome to the Spurs, Isaiah!