Is Mitchell Robinson Worth The Risk?
This piece does not reflect the views of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
C, Chalmette High School
6’11, 215 lbs
College Stats in 2017-18:
No amateur stats available
Where he’ll go:
Robinson will likely be a late first-round or early second-round pick
There’s always a certain allure to the unknown, and in this draft, Mitchell Robinson might be the biggest unknown out there.
Robinson was a highly-rated prospect headed into the year, but after unexpectedly leaving Western Kentucky, where he had attended classes and practiced with the team for about two weeks, he was suspended indefinitely for violating team rules. After it became clear that his NCAA eligibility would not transfer to another school, he opted to forgo college basketball altogether and prepare for the 2018 NBA Draft on his own.
This is a conundrum and one that every NBA team will look at differently. On one hand, he was expected to be one of the top talents in this year’s class, and in AAU-level competition, he hung with the likes of DeAndre Ayton and Marvin Bagley, two of the draft’s top bigs. On the other hand, he went no-show on the college he committed to, and hasn’t played against high-level competition in over a year.
For teams looking for a sure thing, selecting Robinson is out of the question, but for teams willing to gamble on the star-potential of the young center, he could be a steal.
Robinson is all upside. He’s an elite athlete with a huge wingspan and great leaping ability, he projects as a real asset on the defensive end who can survive switches onto smaller players and block shots, he’s a potentially elite rebounder, and there’s a real possibility he could develop into a quality NBA shooter.
However, to develop all these intriguing skills to their fullest potential will require a coaching staff with time and patience. Robinson needs to improve his feel for the game, his screening technique, his ability to play within both an offensive and defensive system and work on his discipline. Robinson is the type of player that could break out in his third or fourth year, but if he lands with a team that’s not willing to put in the consistent work, he could be one of those players that bounce around the league and eventually fall out of it.
But it’s not all on his team—Robinson still has to prove that he’s someone who will put in the work necessary to improve. I don’t know the specifics of his situation at Western Kentucky, that’s between Robinson and the program, but skipping out on a team after two weeks isn’t a great look. Robinson needs to nail his interviews to prove he was acting strategically rather than impulsively when he decided not to play in college.
Someone will certainly take a chance on Robinson, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes a lot higher than where he’s projected. It’s a funny world we live in—Michael Porter Jr. barely played, and played badly, and he’s projected to go as high as second overall. Meanwhile, Robinson, who was a top-10 recruit heading into the 2017 NCAA season, has likely fallen outside of the top 20 without stepping foot on the court. Who knows how good this kid will be, it’s easy to talk yourself in or out of prospects, but the team that picks Robinson will have to deal with the implication—he could be the next big thing or he could be a wasted pick.