A look at draft prospect Mitchell Robinson and his potential fit with the San Antonio Spurs.
With the NBA Draft just over a week away, teams across the league are finalizing additional workouts with prospects and developing their shortlist of players they want to target on June 21. The San Antonio Spurs hold the No. 18 and 49 picks in the draft. One of their options in the first round could be Mitchell Robinson.
Robinson is one of the most intriguing, if not slightly odd, storylines to follow in this year’s upcoming draft. A former 5-star recruit and the No. 3 ranked Center in ESPN’s 2017 Top 100 Recruiting Database behind presumptive top-five picks Deandre Ayton and Mohamed Bamba, Robinson committed to play for the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers for the 2017-18 season.
However, Robinson’s commitment began to waver during the summer before his freshman semester. The McDonald’s All-American packed up all of his belongings, left campus and returned home to Louisiana in July before a team trip. Head coach Rick Stansbury visited his highly touted recruit at his home in New Orleans where Robinson informed him that he was getting cold feet about staying at Western Kentucky.
Robinson even went so far as to visit other schools, most notably Kansas and the University of New Orleans, before recommitting to the Hilltoppers and enrolling at the university again. The issue seemed to be resolved until a few weeks passed and Robinson announced that he would not be returning to Western Kentucky and that he would focus on preparing for the upcoming draft on his own in Dallas.
Once considered one of the most exciting big men set take the college game by storm, fans, scouts, media and NBA teams throughout the league are all left wondering: who is Mitchell Robinson?
Much about Robinson still remains a mystery. His game is difficult to evaluate, considering he never played a minute of college basketball and almost all of his film is from high school. At the high school level, Robinson was a dominant force, averaging 20.9 points, 13.6 rebounds and a ridiculous 8.1 blocks during his senior season at Chalmette High School.
At 7’1″ with a 7’4” wingspan, Robinson is an athletic center who can fly up and down the court, grab boards and blocks shots. His abilities to serve as a rim protector and catch and finish around the rim project him as being a Clint Capela-type player.
The Spurs should give some consideration to drafting a big man with their first-round pick this year. Pau Gasol was essentially the Spurs’ only center on the roster, aside from Joffrey Lauvergne who only played in spurts throughout the year. While he put up respectable numbers, averaging 10.1 points and 8 rebounds per game, Gasol, 37, isn’t getting any younger.
Further, with the Kawhi Leonard injury, LaMarcus Aldridge was forced to do a little bit of everything on offense. Despite Gasol’s solid play, Aldridge spent approximately 62 percent of his possessions playing at the center position. Drafting a center like Robinson would provide more front-court depth, while allowing Robinson to further develop his game and learn from veteran players such as Aldridge and Gasol.
However, Robinson is far from a finished product and whatever team selects him will have to be committed to helping him refine his game. While scouts will be attracted to Robinson’s athleticism, there are still many questions that remain about his game and who he is as a player. Why did he leave Western Kentucky? Who, if anyone, has he been training with? What’s his conditioning like? What’s his mid-range look like? Can he knock down an NBA three-pointer?
NBA teams undoubtedly asked all of these questions and a plethora of others when Robinson attended the NBA Combine and participated in individual team workouts and interviews. Robinson must have left an impression on scouts because he withdrew from the combine amidst rumors that he had been given a first-round guarantee from a team in the twenties. The team in question is rumored to be the Los Angeles Lakers, who hold the 25th pick in the draft.
Despite that speculated first-round promise by the Lakers, the Spurs hold the 18th pick in the draft and could decide to take Robinson if he’s available and they wanted to. However, because of all the question marks and uncertainty surrounding Robinson, the Spurs may opt in favor of drafting a safer prospect who’s more of a known quantity than Robinson.