So many mock drafts and insider columns from which to choose on the Internet. A lesser man than Thomas Robinson would choose to read the projections and opinions that say he already is Superman, ready for instant stardom as a professional basketball player.
A lesser man than Robinson might listen to one of the many, many voices working on behalf of agents eager to tell him that he must leap to the NBA now because he’s already a lottery pick. The NBA drafts on potential, remember?
As usual, Robinson did the smart thing. He decided to kill speculation and made it clear Wednesday he was returning to Kansas University to play his junior season.
Was he ready for the NBA? Ready to make NBA dollars, yes. Ready to play NBA minutes, no. He’s too raw, and he knows it. Robinson wants more out of basketball than to get rich from it. He wants to grow into an outstanding player. That much is obvious by the way he talks about the game, the way he plays it with such passion, the way he attaches himself to assistant coach Danny Manning to draw as much knowledge from him as possible.
Some players risk their marketability by staying in school too long. They get exposed as less of a prospect the longer they play without improving weaknesses. Julian Wright, had he returned to Kansas for his junior season, might have fallen into that category. His explosive jumping made him a good rebounder, but the more you saw him run the floor (not nearly as fast as Darrell Arthur) or slide his feet on defense (not nearly as quick as Brandon Rush) or dribble and shoot (not nearly as skilled at the former as he was eager to do it) the less he looked like a future NBA starter. Wright might have fallen in the draft had he stayed an extra year, but he would have improved more playing in college than sitting in the pros, and he would be a better player.
Robinson’s a different case. The more he plays, the better he becomes. His ceiling is higher than Wright’s ever was, and he already does one thing better than Wright, an excellent passer, ever did anything. Robinson’s one of the best rebounders on the planet, and that’s not going to change. Morehead State’s Kenneth Faried, who broke Tim Duncan’s career rebounding record and led the nation this season, averaged 17 boards per 40 minutes, Robinson 18.
Robinson has shown flashes of developing a mid-range jumper and can hone it better playing 30 minutes a game for Kansas than sitting on an NBA bench. The same can be said for his ball-handling. Playing as a featured scorer will force him to develop better go-to scoring moves.
The joint announcement of the returns of Tyshawn Taylor and Robinson puts an eighth consecutive Big 12 title in play for Kansas, especially if Taylor performs as consistently well as he did after returning from a late-season suspension.
All signs point to an early entry for Marcus and Markieff Morris, a move difficult to question in a normal, non-lockout year. If Josh Selby follows them out the door, KU coach Bill Self would do well to recruit a three-point shooter to go with a pair of tall guys already high on his wish list (DeAndre Daniels and Otto Porter?).
Never forget, Kansas doesn’t rebuild. It reloads.