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Coach: Thomas Robinson Making His Case
Posted By Anthony Macri On December 9, 2011 @ 8:00 am In All,Main Page,NBA Draft | No Comments
Thomas Robinson Making His Case
Kansas forward Thomas Robinson has quietly put himself in a position to charge up draft boards over the coming weeks, starting with his matchup this weekend against Ohio State and Jared Sullinger. If Robinson can demonstrate the ability to perform and produce at a high level against multiple athletes and a top-ranked prospect, it would go a long way toward cementing his place.
There are a number of things to like about Robinson’s game. A tenacious rebounder, he accomplishes the rare feat of not only grabbing caroms that come directly to him, but also tracking down rebounds out of his area. This is something easily achievable by players, but rarely actually done. Most players are so focused on what is happening next (typically a transition opportunity) that they do not finish the play all the way through. Not Robinson; he is actively engaged to the end of most plays even if he isn’t in the direct area of the action.
Turning low-percentage loose balls into 50/50 balls is a specialty of Robinson’s. He constantly competes in the paint, spinning and swimming so he can get into an even “shoulder-to-shoulder” position, initiating contact with his matchup and preventing the other team from getting comfortable with any rebound position.
To go along with his generally strong competitiveness, Robinson possesses good lateral quickness. He “guards his yard” well, meaning he is able to prevent straight line drives and forces offensive players to take a more indirect path. That gives his teammates a chance to help, and in the NBA it can be the difference between giving up lay-ups against contested jump shots. That is a huge difference to a team’s overall plan.
He does not show his jumper too often, but when he does his mechanics look good. He will need to raise his release point as he plays against longer and more athletic defenders because right now it is a little low. This becomes even more necessary as he gets baby jumpers in the lane against shot blockers. The real key will be whether he can demonstrate the ability to shot fake and go by defenders.
The single most important way Robinson can polish his game off the bounce is by changing the location of his initial dribble. Like many bigger players, he often places his first dribble near his body, then attempts to explode forward. The real key is the ability to move forward concurrently with the first dribble: and put the ball on the floor where he wants to go instead of where he is. Part of this is biomechanics (dropping hips and shoulders, achieving a good shin angle and pushing the ball out) but a fair amount is also mindset to do it that way every time, recognizing his current way isn’t as effective and he can do better.
For Thomas Robinson, the story for his first few years in the NBA might be told this weekend. While it is only a snapshot of what he can become, the reality is that a snapshot is all many scouts and front office personnel often have. If he can perform well this weekend, he could move into discussion as a potential difference maker at the professional level.
The Shots Players Don’t Take
Any number of times in every college game I watch, there are moments when a player explodes in a tight space, turns in the air, levels his shoulders and puts the ball in the basket, quickly followed by an “ooh” and “ahh” from the crowd. While these plays elicit a visceral reaction from spectators, a fair number of them are subpar plays that are bailed out through a combination of luck and athleticism. For the crowd, the immediate gratification of the spectacular might be all they remember, but that can’t be the case for someone looking to invest in a player long term.
In separate conversations with two different NBA scouts / front office personnel, shot selection came up this week in reference to two different prospects. For these particular evaluators, they would happily slide the players higher on their boards if some of their overall production went down in favor of efficiency and an improved understanding of what constitutes a “great” shot. Unfortunately, very few prospects realize that outside the top seven or so picks in the draft most leashes in the NBA are very short, and so smart front offices look at scoring efficiency as much as any other single statistic.
An easy player this type of analysis and teaching applies to is Will Barton at Memphis. Barton is a long, rangy athlete who has solid but not overwhelming size for an NBA three. He appears to be able to defend that position and even part time at the two, which are pluses in his corner. However, he has not shown the ability to hit the three consistently enough to really be considered a two in the league. Last season (and even in Memphis’ first few games this year), Barton did not show a lot of discipline in planning possessions and taking great shots. He has been more consistent in recent games, however, hunting great opportunities instead of settling for mediocre ones. As a result, his stock is currently moving up. If he can continue to make good decisions, he could move even higher on draft boards.
In the end, players will find that limiting themselves a little more, genuinely seeking easy shots – instead of making insanely hard ones – is critical. Not only will it increase their efficiency, but if they take it as far as the concept goes, their overall production and value will skyrocket as well.
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Each week, HOOPSWORLD NBA analyst and coach Anthony Macri will open his notebook and offer an assortment of observations on games, players, and teams from throughout the league. Coach Macri serves as a player development consultant for the Pro Training Center and Coach David Thorpe, working with a variety of NBA players on their skills and game understanding. The Coach’s Notebook appears on HOOPSWORLD every Thursday.
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