Bob Lutz: Robinson’s true height will matter in NBA
02/04/2014 7:11 AM
02/04/2014 7:11 AM
For being people who supposedly don’t believe anything until we verify the facts, those of us in the media sure do take the heights listed for athletes — particularly basketball players — for granted.
I have long been a proponent of Tape Measure Day for college basketball teams, during which beat writers for various programs across the country get to see for ourselves just how tall — or how not so tall — players really are.
I bring this up because of Kansas junior Thomas Robinson, who Monday announced his intentions to skip his senior season and become eligible for June’s NBA draft. Wise move on Robinson’s part with a decision that qualifies as the biggest surprise since the sun coming up this morning.
The question I have about Robinson has nothing to do with his immense skills, his off-the-chart desire or his ability to become a very good NBA player someday.
What I want to know is whether he’s really 6-foot-10.
My doubt is new. I never thought about this until I was at the Final Four and I saw Robinson in the championship game against Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis, who is also listed at 6-10 and who many assume will be the top pick in the draft.
There were many times in which Robinson and Davis were in close proximity. And Davis, unless my old eyes were deceiving me, appeared to be at least an inch taller, maybe two.
Yes, perhaps Davis is really 6-11 or 7-feet. But I’ve never known a college basketball team to undersell the size of one of its players. Then again, Davis has been growing at such a rapid pace that I supposed it’s possible he shot up another inch or two since the beginning of the season.
But when I saw how much shorter Robinson appeared than his KU teammate, Jeff Withey, I really started to wonder. Withey is listed at 7-feet and looks every centimeter of it.
Why is Robinson’s height such a big deal for me?
Because, I think it’s going to matter greatly to the NBA owner, general manager and coaching staff that ultimately has to figure out a way to best utilize Robinson. One thing we know for sure is that he’ll be accurately measured before the draft.
The 6-10 measurement comes from when Robinson participated in LeBron James’ King’s Academy camp a few years ago. Again, I’m not sure of its credibility.
I’m not here to downplay Robinson’s potential NBA impact. Earlier this season, I compared him favorably with Orlando Magic superstar Dwight Howard, who is listed at 6-11. Howard is a dominant presence on the low post who can also run the floor and at times play like a guard.
Robinson has the same qualities, except for — potentially — the height.
There wasn’t a tougher rebounder in college basketball this season than Robinson. He can handle the basketball, as long as he doesn’t try to handle it too much. He can defend on the perimeter and possesses the quickness to be able to drive to the basket from the perimeter with spins, jukes and ducks.
In the national championship game against Kentucky, though, Robinson at times struggled with his interior offense. That’ll happen when you’re going up against a guy like the ultra-athletic Davis and big, bad Terrence Jones. But Robinson, even though he had 18 points and 17 rebounds in that 67-59 loss, was just 6 of 17 from the floor.
I’ll take 18 and 17 every night, obviously. But there were times in the Kentucky game in which Robinson appeared too small to go head to head with the Wildcats’ giants.
Calling Robinson “too small” might be enough to call for my head to be examined. How ever tall he is, he has a chiseled frame and enough strength to lift Allen Fieldhouseoff its foundation and take it with him to the NBA.
This season, Robinson was an improved mid-range shooter. That showed in just his free-throw percentage. He was more comfortable pulling up for 12- to 15-foot shots instead of taking everything to the basket. Make no mistake, though, Robinson is at his best when he gets close to the rim. And against almost every team, it wasn’t a struggle.
Against Kentucky, though, it was. And against NBA teams with tree-like figures guarding the basket, Robinson will find no easy paths to the basket. His best chance at the next level will be to develop the kind of perimeter game that will make him a challenge for other teams to guard.
Most of the mock drafts I’ve seen have Robinson going either No. 2 to Washington or No. 3 to New Orleans. You’re not going to get an argument from me about that; I think Robinson is worthy of being the second pick behind Kentucky’s Davis.
Robinson’s ceiling is sky-high. I’m just not sure it’s 6-10 high.