Stuck in the shadows of NBA lottery picks Marcus and Markieff Morris
, Thomas Robinson
played just 14.6 minutes per game last season, not being asked to do much more than run the floor, offensive rebound, post up occasionally, and finish whatever plays his teammates managed to create for him around the basket.
With five of the six players who saw more playing time than him last season now out of the program, though, Robinson will finally have an opportunity to shine in a featured role.
If his play this summer at events like the LeBron James
Skills Academy or adidas Nations counselor games is any indication, Robinson is on the verge of having a breakout season that will put him firmly on the national radar screen as one of the best players in college basketball, as well as one of the top NBA prospects.
Robinson has prototypical physical tools for an NBA power forward, listed at 6-9, with a chiseled frame, and a 7-foot plus wingspan. He's an unbelievable athlete on top of that, quick in the open floor, extremely strong, and highly explosive around the basket.
Robinson didn't play enough minutes to qualify in most statistical categories last season, but if he did, would have ranked as the #1 defensive rebounder in the NCAA on a per-minute basis, and 2nd best overall per-minute rebounder behind NCAA record holder Kenneth Faried
The 60% he shot from the field also ranks him #1 amongst all prospects currently in our top-100 rankings, showing how efficient he was in the role he was asked to play.
Offensively, Robinson isn't an incredibly naturally skilled or polished player, but he finds a way to contribute nevertheless thanks to his tremendous physical tools and the aggressiveness he brings on each and every possession.
A capable threat to post-up opponents with his back to the basket, Robinson shows incredibly nimble footwork, long strides, and the ability to execute impressive spin-moves that put him right at the basket. He's the type of athlete who can easily elevate off two feet for a dunk from a stand-still without a moment to gather himself, making him a terrific target for passes from his guards.
While not incredibly tall, the aggressiveness in which he posts up, banging up against opponents, carving out space and calling for the ball assertively, often gets him deep paint position which allows him to get off very high percentage shot opportunities.
Facing the basket is where we're likely to see more of Robinson in isolation situations this season, as he shows tremendous potential as a mismatch threat here. He has a fantastic first step that most collegiate big men simply cannot stay in front of, which draws him plenty of fouls and free throw attempts.
Robinson only took only ten jump shots last season according to Synergy Sports Technology, but showed solid mechanics from what we could see on film, indicating that he could have some untapped potential here down the road. The fact that he was only able to convert 51% of his free throw attempts last season means that he still has plenty of work to do in this area though.
He could still stand to improve his decision making skills and passing ability as well, as he at times looked a bit out of control last season.
Defensively is where NBA teams will likely see the most potential in him initially. His combination of length, strength, athleticism and intensity is simply ideal for a power forward, giving him the versatility to guard virtually any position on the floor. Already we regularly see Robinson switching out onto guards and having no problem at all staying in front of them on the perimeter. He does a great job moving his feet and using his terrific wingspan to contest shots, and brings a real business-like approach to his work on this end of the floor.
His rebounding ability, as touched upon already, is obviously a huge plus on top of that, and is something that looks very likely to translate to the next level. He regularly goes well out of his area for loose balls, showing terrific tenacity in the process.
Robinson's demeanor is likely something NBA executives and coaches will find extremely appealing, as he's an incredibly tough, aggressive, confident player who loves to mix it up inside the paint, and gives great effort every minute he's out on the floor. It's one thing to have the physical tools needed to make an impact on any given possession, but to be willing to use them at all times is something you don't find too easily.
While at times it can be difficult to project the trajectory of underclassmen who are about to undergo major role changes at big-school teams such as Kansas, Robinson's case seems pretty clear cut. He almost certainly would have been a top-20 pick had he entered the draft last year, and everything about his profile suggests he's primed for a huge year that will elevate his stock comfortably into the lottery of a much more stacked class. If he can find a way to lead Kansas deep into the tournament, he could be picked much higher than that even.