2011-12 NCAA Statistics:
39 Games Played, 31.8 MPG, 17.7 PPG, .505 FG%, 11.9 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.1 STL, 0.9 BLK
4 years, $15 million left
When Thomas Robinson fell to the 5th pick in the draft, I, along with many other Kings fans, was ecstatic. Aside from Anthony Davis, Robinson was the most heralded big man in the draft, a workhorse of a player with high character to boot. For a young team like the Kings, he is a seemingly perfect fit.
Being the 5th pick in the draft carries a lot of expectations. The last player the Kings drafted 5th was none other than current Franchise centerpiece DeMarcus Cousins. However, Kings fans probably should not be expecting a similar rookie season from Robinson. There's definitely reason to be excited though.
I don't expect Robinson to become a starter his first season, although it'd be awesome if he did. To do so, he'll have to outperform veteran Jason Thompson, coming off his best season to date and looking to prove himself worthy of his new contract. That won't be exactly easy to do, no matter how talented Robinson is. Thompson is a good player, and while he might be supplanted in the starting lineup by Robinson in the long-term, it's not probable this season.
An area where Robinson can really help the Kings immediately is as a defensive rebounder. Despite having one of the better rebounders in the NBA in DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings were 29th of 30 teams in Defensive Rebounding Rate, ahead of only the Golden State Warriors. Robinson was one of the top defensive rebounders in the country in college, and led all rookies in rebounds during the Las Vegas Summer League.
Where I think Robinson will struggle, at least early in his career, is scoring. We saw in Summer League that Robinson still has a bit of work to do on his jumper, as well as around the basket. A lot of his shots seemed a bit rushed, and that may have been nerves, as he played much better in the 2nd halves of games. I'm not too worried about Robinson's scoring, as we don't necessarily need him to score too much this season. I'm more worried about him learning to play more off the ball and getting open around the basket, something Jason Thompson has gotten pretty good at. Robinson could be even better with his increased athleticism.
Robinson also showed in Summer League that he has a very advanced handle and passing game for a big man. Still, there's a reason most big men shouldn't be handling the ball often. There's a time and place for it, and rookies especially often don't know when it is. I expect we'll see quite few turnovers from Mr. Robinson in the early stages of his career while he figures it out and grows chemistry with his teammates.
Defensively, Robinson also will have a lot of learning to do, as all rookies will. Not known as a great defender in college, Robinson does at least possess the necessary tools to become a good defender. He's strong, quick and has long arms. Good defense will have to come from experience.
I think that by the time this season is done, some short-sighted fans will be disappointed in Robinson, even if his season was just alright. Fans don't want "just alright" from the 5th pick. We didn't get Robinson for this year alone though, we got him for where he'll be for the next ten years. He came along slowly in college, only to explode when given an increased role last year. He's a very hard worker and a fast learner, and I think that eventually he will develop into one of the finer young Power Forwards in the league. And who knows? Maybe he can surpass my tempered expectations for this year and be a phenomenal rookie. All the better for him and the Kings.