After drafting a power forward with the fourth pick in 2011, draft day priorities do not start at power forward. Several will be drafted in the lottery however, so it’s folly to ignore them. The top of my draft day wish list is a scoring wing. Many NBA teams draft by tiers though; maybe they put Anthony Davis as the top tier, with MKG – Thomas Robinson – Beal – Barnes – Drummond as the next tier, etc. If they’re picking seventh and there is one second tier player left, he gets picked, regardless of team need. Also, Cleveland’s longterm front court is a blank slate besides Tristan Thompson…at some point, they need to land another two big guys, preferably with some range on their shot. If they really like a power forward better than everyone else on the board, maybe the correct thing to do is pick him.
Having said all that, 90% of me wants Cleveland to draft a wing with their first pick. The above paragraph primarily serves as my excuse to not ignore half the likely lottery. Today, a quick look at Thomas Robinson, Kansas’ junior big man that both ESPN and draftexpress.com currently rate third in 2012.
AP Photo - Nati Harnik
Robinson encompasses the entire physical package of a prototype NBA four. He’s 6’9″ (or 6’10”) with a large wingspan and carries a chiseled 240 lbs. As a coordinated, explosive athlete that plays with non-stop motor, he racks up 18 points and 12 rebounds in 32 minutes per game . Grabbing 32% of available defensive rebounds ranks first in the NCAA, which is really impressive considering Kansas’ schedule. He puts in the needed effort on defense and has the right tools, including physicality to bang down low and agility to defend the perimeter. Despite making significant strides since last year, his offensive repertoire still has room to grow. Exhibiting great effectiveness scoring on putbacks, cuts & in transition, his jump shot is a work in progress (35% this year according to draft express). He did convert 6 of 13 threes though and shot 70% on foul shots, which are frequent for him, thanks to a quick first step and an aggressive offensive demeanor, both attacking off the dribble in isolation or after establishing deep position on the block. The post move portfolio doesn’t always feature a feathery touch or perfect footwork, but he’ll shoot hook shots with both hands and flash dynamic spin moves and drop steps. Turnovers pose a problem; struggles with double teams and the growing pains of developing a back-to-the-basket arsenal result in nearly three botched possessions a game. Finally, he doesn’t appear to have the basket protection gene, registering less than one block per game. As an integral part of the NCAA’s ninth ranked defense; he’s clearly not a liability though.
Notes from recent games include:
02/08 vs Baylor – Robinson’s good and bad were on full display in this 68 – 54 Jayhawk win, as he finished with 15 points on 61% true shooting with 11 rebounds and 5 turnovers. Nine points came due to hustle and off-the-ball movement, scoring in transition and off cuts. In addition, he stroked one long jumper and finished a strong drive for another basket. Great positioning and box-outs limited his lottery-bound counterpart Perry Jones III to three rebounds. Despite only netting one assist, many solid passes by him from the post ended in open misses. On the downside, perimeter players have little to fear on a drive when they find Robinson in their sights; he offered little resistance as Kansas’ last line of defense. Last, and probably least, his tendency to lose the ball in the post was apparent.
03/18 vs Purdue – This was a peculiar game for Robinson. He struggled offensively, finishing 2 of 12 from the field, but he visited the line frequently, drawing seven fouls and finishing with 11 points. In addition to his thirteen rebounds, he was Varejao-esque in keeping offensive rebounds alive; four times in the first half, he battled to get a hand on the ball, resulting in continued Jayhawk possession. His passing offered a glimpse of promise; one of his three assists was a nifty drive & kick, and several potential dimes were thwarted by open shooters hoisting bricks.
Not all news was positive though. Frustrated by the Purdue defense, his touch in the paint and from the perimeter was poor; he air balled a hook shot, missed an accidental bank shot from the area of the foul line, etc. Bad hands also presented themselves, though fortunately for Robinson on a few occasions, a bobbled ball bounced off Purdue and KU retained possession. Basically the ratio of smooth offensive plays to clumsy possessions didn’t end in Robinson’s favor.
KU’s defense was the odd aspect of this game. Robinson started by guarding Robbie Hummel, Purdue’s senior stretch 4, who couldn’t miss and scored 11 points in the first eight minutes. I wasn’t concerned about T-Rob’s defense on Hummel; it looked like a player with 1800 career points making tough shots. At some point in the first half, another Jayhawk switched onto Hummel. Kansas’s halftime adjustments are when things got interesting though; Robinson’s primary defensive responsibility involved going man-to-man with a variety of small guards, including 5’9″ Lewis Jackson on a couple of possessions. Kansas also intermittently switched to matchup zones, like a triangle-and-two. The strategy provided a mixed bag of results for Robinson, but ultimatley it worked; in the second half, Kansas finished +13 with Robinson on the court and -4 when he sat. On one pick and roll, it appeared he forgot that his man was the ball handler, and once in a zone setup, he wandered around like a concussion victim…I credited these poor showings to Kansas running defenses they had probably practiced for half an hour. Generally, he displayed solid perimeter defensive fundamentals, keeping low to the ground, arms out, moving his feet well; his quickness was on full display. I noted seven separate possessions where Purdue tried to attack Robinson with a guard in isolation or by running a pick-and-roll with Robinson as the on-ball defender; Purdue only scored on three. It wasn’t always pretty, but given the assignment, he represented himself well.
Summary: Robinson’s size, strength & skills, combined with athleticism and intensity make him a can’t miss. He’ll play hard, rebound, and provide some offense immediately, while ideally continuing to expand his post game and add range to his jumper. If he can slightly improve his shot, he could look pretty good next to Tristan; a floor spacing, defensive rebounding machine next to an offensive board attacking, layup rejecting beast.
After seven players, my rankings, including stats from their ten most recent games are:
1. MKG – 31.4 m, 9.4 p, 7.1 r, 1.5 a, 0.9 s, 0.8 b, 1.7 to, 56% TS
2. Robinson – 32.3 m, 16.7 p, 11.2 r, 2.7 a, 1.1 s, 0.5 b, 3.0 to, 52% TS
3. Drummond – 30.4 m, 10.3 p, 7.7 r, 0.2 a, 0.7 s, 3.1 b, 0.8 to, 50% TS
4. Barnes – 32.4 m, 16.2 p, 5.6 r, 0.9 a, 1.1 s, 0.3 b, 2.1 to, 50% TS
5. Jones III – 29.1 m, 12.1 p, 7.9 r, 1.3 a, 0.5 s, 0.5 b, 1.1 to, 50% TS
6. Lamb – 37.8 m, 19 p, 5.7 r, 1.5 a, 0.7 s, 0.5 b, 1.3 to, 59% TS
7. Miller – 22.7 m, 7.3 p, 4.8 r, 1.0 a, 0.5 s, 0.4 b, 1.5 to, 44% TS