Just for a minute, forget the twins and forget Josh Selby.
Most of the buzz surrounding the future of the Kansas University men's basketball program right now is on one man and one man alone — Thomas Robinson.
Robinson enjoyed a monster season in 2010, transforming from the few-minutes-a-game freshman he was last year into a sophomore with the ability to take over, and change, games.
In 33 games (2 starts) and just under 15 minutes per outing this season, Robinson averaged 7.6 points and 6.4 rebounds for the 35-3 Jayhawks. Those numbers, while not amazing, should be taken for more than they are considering Robinson was playing behind Marcus and Markieff Morris, two all-Big-12-caliber big men who averaged 30.8 and 15.9 rebounds combined per game themselves.
In addition to the glamorous stats such as points and rebounds, Robinson delivered 22 blocks (third on the team), 14 steals, a .601 field goal percentage and more rim-rattling dunks than anyone in the Big 12. The obvious question here is why didn’t Robinson play more? The even-more-obvious answer is that the only way he could have played more is if the twins had played less. And there aren’t a lot of people out there, including KU coach Bill Self, who saw that as a good option.
That leads me to my point and it has to do with Robinson’s upcoming decision whether to stay in school another year or bolt for the NBA Draft.
At the beginning of the season, this wasn’t much of a question. Sure, people saw Robinson’s long-term NBA potential, but the key word there was long-term. Few thought he would be ready after just two years of school and, really, that’s still the biggest question here. Is Robinson ready?
That depends on what you mean by ready. Is he physically mature enough to bang with the post players in the NBA? Sure. Is he athletically gifted enough to not look lost out there? Absolutely.
The list continues: Is he mentally ready for the pace the NBA offers, not to mention the grind of traveling night-after-night from city to city? Nobody but Robinson knows the answer to that one. And, finally, would coming back to school put him in a better position to be more ready in any of those departments next year or the year after? Who knows?
There’s so much to process and so much to consider. And, really, only Robinson’s answers are the ones that matter.
Unlike many KU players before him, Robinson’s in a unique position here. For most, whatever decision a player makes has an obvious reaction. For instance, Cole Aldrich and Xavier Henry would’ve been crazy to come back. No matter how much they liked KU and enjoyed playing with their teammates, both were lottery picks and returning to school would more than likely have hurt their stock instead of helping it. And think about Nick Collison or Kirk Hinrich. Either could’ve left college after their junior seasons and been drafted, but both came back and both wound up being lottery picks the next year.
In Robinson’s case, it’s easy to see that either path could be the right one. Take a look at where a handful of Internet mock drafts have him ranked at the moment, with the most recent update in parentheses.
• NBADraft.net (3/30) — 23rd in 2011 draft
• NBADraftInsider (3/28) — 15th in 2011 draft
• HoopsAddict.com (3/23) — 27th in 2011 draft
• TheSportsBank.net (3/23) — 22nd in 2011 draft
• MyNBADraft.net (2/5) — 20th in 2011 draft
• DraftSite.com (3/30) — 65th in 2011 draft
• DraftExpress.com (3/16) — 17th in 2012 draft
It should be noted that a quick scan of the web took me to about 20 different mock draft sites. Those listed above were the ones that had Robinson included, but nearly twice as many did not have him at all.
That’s what makes his situation so interesting. How can one site have him 15th in this year’s draft — that’s the first pick outside of the lottery — and others not have him in this year’s draft at all. Maybe some aren’t ranking him because they’re expecting him to stay at Kansas for the 2011-12 season. Maybe some aren’t ranking him because these things aren’t an exact science and there is no precise formula. And maybe some aren’t ranking him because he’s not yet shown himself to be a complete player. His jump shot is inconsistent, he struggles at the free throw line and he plays out of control too often.
In college, thanks to his size, strength and motor, Robinson can overcome those things and still be a stud. In the NBA, it might not be as easy to do that.
That doesn’t mean one choice is right and the other is wrong. It just means that both paths could provide some interesting results.
The guess here is that Robinson comes back, plays like a man possessed and becomes a lottery pick in the 2012 draft. But if enough people are telling him that he’ll be a first-rounder this year, I can see how it would be tough to pass up the opportunity for guaranteed money given the situation he and his sister are in.
Should-I-stay-or-should-I-go is not an easy decision for anybody. But the one Robinson has in front of him is as tough of one as I can remember seeing.
Good luck, Thomas.