Recently waived F Thomas Robinson spurned multiple playoff contenders to sign with the Brooklyn Nets. Fresh off trading for Thaddeus Young, the Nets followed up by adding a young, raw player in Robinson. What does Robinson bring to the Nets and how can he impact the team moving forward?
Robinson, only 23-years-old, hasn’t stuck anywhere in the NBA yet. He was drafted fifth overall in 2012 by the Sacramento Kings, ahead of the likes of Damian Lillard, Harrison Barnes, Terrence Ross and Jared Sullinger. Averaging a double-double per game in his junior season at Kansas, Robinson seemed poised to make the leap to the NBA.
His tenure with the Kings lasted 51 games and saw him average 4.8 points per game, before he was traded mid-season to the Houston Rockets, where he would average 4.5 points per game over 19 games. This was an overall underwhelming rookie campaign, mainly due to limited minutes. Robinson rebounded at a pretty good rate for a power forward playing only 14 minutes a night.
Robinson would go on to spend the next year and half with Portland Trail Blazers, backing up star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge. This opportunity should have given Robinson the chance to shine off the bench, but his production remained level with his first season, averaging 4.8 and 3.6 points per game in his two seasons with the Trailblazers.
The big man was then included in a trade package for the Denver Nuggets’ Arron Afflalo, and was waived by the team soon after. Despite his limited production in his short NBA career, Robinson was coveted following his buy-out, with playoff contenders like the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, and Phoenix Suns all bidding for his services. Ultimately, Robinson traded the chance to play on a more competitive team for a chance to play for the team he admitted was his ideal draft landing spot.
Robinson fills out the Nets roster, bringing them to the limit of 15 players, and he fills it with a good position. The Nets roster is already loaded with options in the backcourt, so Robinson provides frontcourt flexibility where it is needed. Robinson has averaged 12.2 minutes per game so far this season, and this number may slightly increase in Brooklyn, but not by much. With Brook Lopez, Mason Plumlee, and Thaddeus Young headlining the frontcourt, and Cory Jefferson and Jerome Jordan providing quality minutes, Robinson’s services won’t be needed as much.
This sounds like a recipe for a repeat of Robinson’s previous NBA ventures, but it may not be. Yes, the frontcourt already consists of five contributing members but Robinson doesn’t just provide depth, he provides flexibility. At 6’10”, Robinson provides good size at power forward but also above average athleticism. Robinson isn’t just a depth player to come in when Young, Lopez, and Plumlee are tired, he brings a unique skillset to the table. He is also an incredibly efficient rebounder, pulling down 0.34 rebounds per minute on the court. For comparison, Plumlee grabs 0.31 per minute, and Lopez only 0.23 per minute. Basically, Robinson rebounds at a good rate for the time he’s on the floor.
His potential is highlighted by his per-36 minutes stats. These numbers are used to translate a player’s production over the course of a full game. Robinson’s averages per 36 minutes are 10.6 points per game and 12.5 rebounds per game. Combined with his 51% field goal percentage, these are above average numbers that show Robinson’s true value.
Robinson may even get some chances to play extended minutes in Brooklyn. Coach Lionell Hollins has shown he has no restraint changing the starting lineup on any given night, even starting Joe Johnson at power forward recently. Robinson provides Hollins another option in the starting lineup, perhaps on the second night of a back-to-back, or facing an opponent with a similarly athletic power forward.
The Kansas alum’s arrival also may signify a shift of Mason Plumlee to more a full-time center. Plumlee has dispersed his minutes between power forward and center this year, but with Young and Robinson garnering more playing time at power forward, Plumlee will likely see himself shifted to center more often. This also allows for any number of solid combinations of Robinson, Young, Lopez, and Plumlee to dominate in the paint. Flexibility, one of the Nets most overlooked assets, is improved even more by the signing of Robinson.
Should Nets fans be excited by Robinson? On any given night Robinson can produce a highlight reel dunk or monster block, and he should help the Nets become a better team. But will Robinson’s impact on the Nets this season be significant?
Robinson provides depth, flexibility, and options. What he doesn’t provide is consistent offense, and this will continue to limit his minutes as it has in the past. Nets fans can expect around 15 minutes a night from Robinson once he’s eased into the rotation, and can expect many rebounds and a few highlight plays.
However, fans should not expect the signing of Robinson to improve the team’s fate this year. Perhaps Robinson will be instrumental in a win or two this year en route to a possible playoff berth. Robinson alone will not change the Nets ultimate fate of a first round playoff exit if the Nets are even to make it that far.
If Robinson performs well this year, the Nets should extend him a couple years. As Robinson continues to grow and get NBA experience, he could be a solid rotation player in Brooklyn moving forward. A core frontcourt consisting of Plumlee, Lopez, Young, and Robinson would be an excellent building block for the Nets moving forward.