NBA Sunday: Can Robinson Save the Bobcats?
Who Can Save the Bobcats?
Just like they did all season, when it came time for the NBA Lottery, the Charlotte Bobcats lost. However, unlike the regular season, there could very well be a solid consolation prize waiting for them at the end of their failure—Kansas University power forward Thomas Robinson.
It was awful to lose out on Anthony Davis—let’s not get this twisted—because that young man pairs a skillset with a body type in a combination we’ve never really seen before, and he hasn’t even put on all his muscle or fully matured as a player yet. Not even close.
So the New Orleans Hornets are giddy over landing the first pick, as well they should be, but the Bobcats have the opportunity at #2 to take another potential perennial All-Star in Robinson. He might not have quite the potential for super-duper-mega-stardom like Davis does, but you could rebuild a franchise around this kid. And it just so happens that’s exactly what Charlotte needs to do.
A couple of things to consider about Robinson: In Kansas’s somewhat unexpected charge to the NCAA championship this past March, Robinson scored at least 18 points in every game from the Sweet Sixteen on, and the final three of those four games paired him up against future first-round picks. He did it against North Carolina’s John Henson, Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, and then on Kentucky’s Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones, in the title game. In that championship loss, Robinson dropped 18 points and 17 boards in the biggest game of his life. That speaks volumes about what kind of young player we’re talking about here.
But the numbers only tell part of the story with Robinson. His personality and approach to the game make him both very coachable and very ideal as a locker room leader. The young man comes from an excellent background, and has always been more about the team than personal recognition. He only just got his first opportunity to start this past season, his junior year, because he was parked behind Markieff and Marcus Morris, both drafted in the first round of the 2011 NBA Draft, on the KU depth chart. Robinson never complained, at least not outwardly, that entire time.
At 6’10” and 237 pounds, he’s got one of the most NBA-ready bodies in the draft (Davis is about 20 pounds lighter), and that will help him continue his success as a rebounder on the next level. He’s got a nose for it, and his athleticism and strength should help him make a pretty smooth transition.
Anybody who’s seen him work out since the college season ended has been blown away by the kid, and the truth is that no matter how good Davis might be, Robinson’s got just as good a chance to be successful as a pro. Those two players have the best combination of proven ability and untapped potential, which means they’ll probably be the two best rookies in the class while also still showing the most room for growth. How is that not something a team would want in a franchise player?
Rumors are already swirling that Charlotte could consider trading their pick. One scenario floating around is that Cleveland would offer the #4 and #24 picks for the #2, but that would be a huge mistake if Charlotte bit on that. Really, any trade involving the #2 that doesn’t bring back an All-Star probably isn’t worth it. This is a young man that can turn a franchise around. The Bobcats need that, so they need to keep the pick and take the right player with it.
Losing out on Davis was frustrating, for sure, but there’s still a lot of positivity in having Robinson available at #2. It looks like Charlotte will roll with a slightly altered color scheme next year, and they could even eventually change their team name, as well. A great way to usher in that identity change would be with a young star you can grow, rebuild, and rebrand with. There’s no reason to think Thomas Robinson couldn’t be that young star.
Kevin Durant Turns Legend (But Give Serge Ibaka and Kawhi Leonard Some Love, Too)
You would’ve had to have watched the game to realize how ridiculous Kevin Durant’s 18 fourth-quarter points were in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. Possession after possession, Thunder guards would dump the ball to Durant at the top of the key, where he’d have a forearm in his back from Stephen Jackson or whomever else got stuck with the assignment that trip down the floor, and then Durant would just effortlessly make his way towards the basket and make the shot. Which shot? Dang near all of them.
If it seemed like he was scoring every trip down the floor, that’s because he kind of was. Durant scored sixteen consecutive points for OKC at one point, and finished the quarter 7-for-9 from the field with four free throws. Eighteen points. Thunder win. Series tied and headed back to San Antonio for Game 5.
“I just want to be calm and composed and poised in those situations and make the right basketball play,” Durant said after the game. “There were times when I need to pass to my teammates and times when I need to score. I just try to take it on, try not to be nervous. Sometimes it’s nerve-racking playing those games like that.”
Calm certainly prevailed over nerves on this night, but Durant’s big game only told part of the story in Game 4. His teammate, All-Defensive First-Teamer Serge Ibaka, finished the night with a career-high 26 points on 11-for-11 shooting from the field. That’s the second most field goals scored without a miss in a playoff game in NBA history, and it comes from a guy who only averaged about four made filed goals per game during the regular season.
On any other night, that would’ve been the story.
That, or another huge game from Spurs rookie Kawhi Leonard, who shot 7-for-8 (including 3-4 from 3) and grabbed 9 rebounds in the loss. Some of those points came in the fourth quarter, when the game was still tight and the Spurs needed big buckets; he knocked down a huge three and grabbed an offensive board for a put-back late in the game. Not a lot of rookies get to do that in the Conference Finals, but Leonard is putting to bed any doubts that he was worth trading George Hill for.
There were almost as many great storylines in this game as there were great Kevin Durant shots. We wanted a good series, and we’re finally starting to get it. Game 5 can’t come fast enough.
Cleveland Shopping Their Picks
Call them greedy, but the Cleveland Cavaliers were hoping to win the #1 overall pick for the second year in a row. Surely the idea of pairing Kyrie Irving with Anthony Davis was enough to get the entire state of Ohio excited, but not only did they miss out on the top pick, but the entire lottery. Now, they find themselves with the 4th and 24th picks in the draft, and they’re doing everything they can to move out of that slot.
Chances are if they stay put, they’ll get an opportunity to draft a player that could fill a positional need for them. They need a prototypical center, so Andre Drummond is a real possibility. They need a small forward, and Michael-Kidd Gilchrist is about as perfect a fit for Irving as there is in this draft. They need a scorer to run alongside their franchise point guard, and Bradley Beal has been tagged as just such a player.
Thomas Robinson would be an upgrade over Tristan Thompson, but not enough of one to warrant selecting him over the other guys mentioned above who answer much more pressing needs.
That’s why the rumored offer of Cleveland’s two first-rounders going to Charlotte in exchange for the #2 likely is with some player other than Robinson in mind. The Bobcats are reportedly very interested in Drummond (though it’s a mystery as to why considering Bismack Biyombo, a center, is their most promising player), and Washington has been pegged as a good fit for Kidd-Gilchrist. If one of those two players ended up topping their boards, that could warrant a trade up.
Kidd-Gilchrist, one of the best transition players in college basketball last year, would be an awesome fit in Cleveland, especially since he seems much more like a career second-fiddle than a career alpha dog. He’ll do much better in a place like Cleveland or Washington than Charlotte or Toronto for that exact reason.
However, if the Cavs can’t swing that deal (and for the reasons listed at the top of this article regarding Robinson and the Bobcats, there’s a good chance they can’t), then Bob Finnan of the Morning Journal suggests they could pursue a deal with Portland that would swap the #4 and #24 for the Blazers’ #6 and #11 picks. In this scenario, Cleveland could use the #6 pick to select UConn guard Jeremy Lamb, who they reportedly see as a perfect complement to Irving in the Cavs’ backcourt.
There’s even the suggestion that if they can’t swing a deal, Cleveland might rate Lamb higher than Beal on their list of top shooting guards anyway, and based on early workouts that might not be as crazy as some fans think. Beal has reportedly been stiff and slow at workouts, and Lamb is generally considered to have a higher ceiling. The fourth pick might be a little high for him, but if the Blazers agreed to swing that deal, it could benefit both parties. At #4, Portland could get a player like Drummond or Harrison Barnes that might not have been available to them two picks later.
The early word is that there are a lot of teams looking to trade out of their first-round picks this year, and that could mean big moves at the draft in a few weeks. Expect Cleveland to lead the charge and be one of the more aggressive teams along those lines.