Thomas Robinson: A Clean Slate


Mar 24, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets power forward Thomas Robinson (41) knocks the ball from San Antonio Spurs center Tiago Splitter (22) during the first half at the Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

As you all know, the Blazers acquired power forward Thomas Robinson from the Houston Rockets earlier this week. All that the Blazers had to surrender was two future second round picks and the rights to two foreign players. This is pennies on the dollar; an absolute fleece job. As I’ve said before, talent can be found in the second round, but for every Manu Ginobili and Marc Gasol, there are 28 other nameless faces – it’s hard. I am unconcerned about losing the second rounders.

As for the rights to Kostas Papanikolau and Marko Todorovic (the two foreign players), I don’t want to downplay their talent, but the truth is, working with foreign players is incredibly difficult. Many never even end up coming over to the US. By the time they do, oftentimes they are already quite older than a traditional “rookie.” Obviously players like Ginobili, Dirk Nowitzki and Nikola Pekovic exist, but they are the exception, not the norm. On top of it all, there was no indication that either of these two players would have even tried to come over this season or anytime in the near future.

In exchange for these easy to part with pieces, the Blazers received last year’s number five pick (which was one pick ahead of Damian Lillard). The NUMBER FIVE pick! I ended up watching more college ball last season than I normally do with my housemates, and saw a large percentage of March Madness. While there was likely some TV-ratings boosting hyperbole at play, for much of the tournament, Robinson was talked about as the number two player, second to only Anthony Davis.

He did end up falling to fifth, if you can even call that “falling.” Just keep this in perspective – this means that talent evaluators were so high on him that he was actually taken before Lillard. Players just don’t go in the top five picks for no reason. While these highly selected players may not always pan out (here’s to you Kwame), they were chosen where they were for their immense potential.

It must be noted, though, that in Robinson’s case, Portland is his third team in under a year. Now, I’ve seen the comments and posts that suggest this is a warning sign, and honestly, in most cases it should be. If he is that good, why are teams giving up on him? But as I’ve said before, we always have to play the context game: his first team was the Kings. This is a team that was under bad ownership, bad management, could barely fill half of their stadium, and was almost removed from their city for this team-wide ineptitude. I cannot in good faith count the Kings getting rid of Robinson as a strike against him.

Next, he ended up in Houston. In Houston, I honestly I expected him to earn a bigger role, but instead, he could only carve out a paltry 13 minutes per game. We have to again look at the context though: Houston was absolutely loaded with power forwards already, including Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas. Both of these players were a much better fit in Houston’s system, which needed their power forwards to have a bit of range on their shots (something that Robinson definitely does not have). It just makes sense, then, that they would part with him.

In a vacuum, yes, three teams in one year looks like a warning sign, but in Robinson’s case, I am unconcerned. In fact, I’m flat out excited. David texted me the news while I was sleeping, and I almost tripped trying to get to my laptop so fast. Robinson just needs stability and a team willing to stand behind him, and then we can expect excellent things from him.

I am choosing to look at Robinson as essentially another rookie for this upcoming year. I think this is the logical view to take. He had a rather rough first year in the league, so let’s just pretend like he has a clean slate and see what he can do. His woes were compounded by the fact that Sacramento, as an organization, was never known for their proficiency at developing young players, so I think that Terry Stotts and his staff can really make a difference in this aspect.

If we take this view, Portland has acquired 5th, 6th, 10th, and 11th overall picks worth of talent in the past two drafts. This is fantastic. Teams are built around young cores, and the Blazers are moving in the right direction on this front.

The good comes with the bad, though. If Robinson were a truly transcendent talent, neither team would have let him go. He struggles mightily on the offensive side of the game. He shot an even 43% from the field, which is already worrying for a power forward, but an even more anemic 29.6% from any shot that was not at the rim. This is definitely cause for concern, but again, before getting too worried, we should give Stotts and his staff time to work some magic. I truly believe that the situations on both of Robinson’s teams really held him back, and this problem can easily be remedied in Portland.

Quick Notes:

He is a bruiser, especially rebounding. He snagged 10.7 boards per 36 minutes, but I suspect with more consistent playing time, this number will shoot up.

Try to watch this video and not cry. Portland is going to love him.

This dunk (over Dwight Howard no less) shows what a freak of nature athlete he is, and hopefully he can grace the Rose Garden with many more like it.

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