Published on January 21st, 2012 | by Bryant West, Columnist1
2012 NBA Draft Prospect Stock Watch: Thomas Robinson
Thomas Robinson hasn’t gotten as much attention over the past few seasons as some of his fellow draft prospects. While Harrison Barnes, Perry Jones III and Jared Sullinger all wowed scouts and fans last season, Robinson was playing off the bench for Kansas behind the Morris twins.
Now that the Morris brothers are off and playing in the NBA, playing time has opened up for Robinson, and he’s showing that not only is he one of the best draft prospects around—he’s one of college basketball’s best players.
There really isn’t anything to dislike in Robinson’s game. He has the full package of what you’d want in a NBA big man— he is tall, strong, physical and possesses great determination.
He’s an efficient scorer with a growing skill set around the basket. While he’s no Hakeem in the post, he’s gained a ton of confidence in the paint and there is no reason to believe he’s only scratched the surface of his potential. He doesn’t take a ton of jumpers, but he’s improved significantly since last season, and he even has range out to the three-point line.
He’s arguably college basketball’s best rebounder, nabbing 12.6 rebounds a contest. While he is ever-so-slightly undersized, standing at just 6′ 9″, his athleticism and determination make him one heck of a rebounder and that should easy transfer over to the NBA game.
And while it’s easy to look at his lack of blocks—just 1.1 a contest—and question his defense, watching him play shows he’s an excellent defender. His long arms (he has a wingspan of 7′ 2″), jumping ability and an incredible speed for a big man combine with his physical grit to make him quite the intimidating cover.
In Kansas’ biggest game so far this season, a home matchup last Monday against undefeated Baylor, Robinson had a monster game. Playing against fellow soon-to-be-lottery selection Perry Jones, Robinson controlled the paint, hitting eight of his first nine shots. He utterly demolished a tough Baylor defense, and finished with 27 points and 14 rebounds on 11 of 18 shooting and showed he belongs in the discussion for NCAA Player of the year.
And while it may not affect where he goes in the draft, Robinson is one of the toughest guys in college basketball. This tear inducing piece, written by Tom Friend of ESPN Magazine, chronicles the death of Robinson’s maternal grandparents and then his mother, all within a month of each other. It’s impossible not to respect Robinson’s determination and strength after such a loss.
Draft Watch: There is little chance that Robinson will remain at Kansas another year. After the death of his mother, Robinson’s goal is to become an NBA star so he can take care of his little sister, Jayla. Said Head Coach Bill Self, “I would never say he needs to leave for the NBA, but I hope Thomas is able to leave. I hope this is his last year at the University of Kansas. Selfishly I want him to stay. We would win more games. But it needs to be his last year.”
In what is clearly one of the most confusing polls of top talent in draft history, it’s really hard to predict the top four or five going into June. Anthony Davis is still the clear top selection, but guys like Andre Drummond, Harrison Barnes and Perry Jones III are all fighting for a top spot. And after his dominating performance against Jones and Baylor last week, Robinson’s name belongs in that category.
As the college basketball season goes on, hopefully the draft pool will start becoming clearer, because it’s really tough to predict how the top talent will pan out. At this point, Robinson could be expected to go anywhere from number two to number seven. Of course, it’s always hard to create a mock draft five months off from the draft, but with the depth of this potential class, it’s far, far harder to guess anything.
Something that will work against Robinson is the sheer amount of power forwards in this years class. Davis, Robinson, Jones and Jared Sullinger are all clearly power forwards in the NBA—and thats without even mentioning Terrence Jones or John Henson. Andre Drummond is clearly the best center, and has the top-tier of that position basically all to himself. Robinson isn’t that lucky.
Luckily for Robinson (and the rest of the big man core) most of the current lottery teams need or could use a big men. Washington, New Jersey, Detroit, New Orleans, Sacramento, Milwaukee, Phoenix, Boston, and Houston (all currently sitting at the bottom of the leagues standings, according to NBADraft.net) could use a power forward.
But perhaps a sentimental spot for Robinson could be Washington. It would give him a chance to play near his hometown, and the Wizards could seriously use a 2nd option big alongside John Wall.
Conclusion: It appears the only ‘weakness’ scouts can find in Robinson’s game is that he’s 6′ 9″, and not 6′ 10″. With that said, he’s currently below Anthony Davis, Harrison Barnes and Andre Drummond in all the mock drafts, and is battling with Jared Sullinger and Perry Jones III for positioning around picks four through seven. But with his athleticism, rebounding skills, interior scoring talents and sheer determination and motor, Robinson will be a star wherever he goes.
Photo Credit: Matt A. Brown/Icon SMI