Editor’s note: This is the third in a series examining top prospects in the NBA Draft. Profiles are based on conversations with NBA general managers and scouts.
Thomas Robinson has two things going for him entering the draft. He looks as if he’s been chiseled from the side of Mount Rushmore, and he plays with tons of passion.
Those two things alone make the power forward out of Kansas worthy of GM’s of lottery teams time and consideration.
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But that’s not all.
During his junior season, Robinson displayed a penchant for finding ways to put the ball in the basket, showing marked improvement in his overall ability and comfort-level with the ball in his hands. He chased down rebounds, dove for loose balls, and was one scout put it, was often at his best “in winning time.”
In fact, Robinson was the biggest reason Kansas made it all the way to the national title game (before losing to Kentucky), putting an otherwise overmatched squad on his back and carrying it.
“He has plenty of skills, an all-around game really,” said one NBA scout. “But what I really like is the intangibles. He just refuses to lose, and takes losing hard. He’s just a tough guy mentally.”
The scout speaks the truth, as Robinson isn’t a great jump shooter — but it’s not a good idea to leave him open, either. He isn’t necessarily an unstoppable force down low — but he’s strong and nimble enough to get off his shot against taller defenders. He isn’t a fantastic passer by any stretch — but you don’t have to worry about him committing a turnover when double-teamed.
“He isn’t going to wow anybody with his style of play, but he gets the job done with very good fundamentals and raw strength,” said another scout. “He’s a physical specimen who also is a very smart and competitive.”
Robinson finished his junior season with averages of 17.7 points and 11.9 rebounds per game. He’s not great off the dribble, with his back to the basket or running the floor. But he is good enough in each area and, again, proved he could overcome his shortcomings via pure determination.
As for defense, the website DraftExpress.com writes, “Robinson has excellent potential to defend the power forward position in the NBA. He’s big and strong enough to defend on the block, and he’s quick enough laterally to defend more perimeter-oriented four men and help on pick-and-rolls.”
One scout called him “a David West-type,” comparing Robinson to the Indiana forward. Others think he’ll be better than that.
But just like every prospect, he can’t dodge the doubters. For one, scouts wonder if he’s closer to 6-foot-10 or 6-8 (something we’ll learn more about during individual workouts and the Chicago pre-draft camp). For another, scouts wonder if he has no real position and is more of a “tweener,” walking the fine line between small and power forward.
Still, the general consensus is Robinson is the type of talent who is worth examining further. And you can expect GMs, scouts and even fans to do just that long before the June 28 draft.