Assessing Mitchell Robinson

April 4, 2018

by Alan Lu

As you may know, 7-0 center Mitchell Robinson elected to sit out the entire season to prep himself for the 2018 NBA Draft, as he opted not to play college basketball this year.  Because of this, he may be something of a mystery man to a majority of basketball watchers, even though he has a good chance to end up being a first round pick if he keeps his name in the pool.  In trying to get a better feel for his skill set and pro potential, I decided to try to find a full game footage of him playing online, and while there didn’t seem to be much, I did stumble upon a very interesting match that he participated in.

With thanks to YouTube via WHNOSports, I was able to see Mitchell Robinson play for Chalmette against St. Paul’s in a February 8th, 2017, high school basketball game., in which his team ended up getting a double-digit victory.  It can be duly noted that in this contest, he was matched up against significantly shorter defenders for the duration of the match.  Regardless, Robinson dominated, as he stuffed the stat sheet, and he played really well in all facets of the game.  On this day, the most impressive part was the many ways that he scored the basketball, as Robinson may be a much more skilled offensive player than previously thought.

Robinson did a very good job of scoring on hustle plays.  He does a good job of moving off the ball on offense, as he would score on alley-oop dunks off of cuts and rolls, and he also would score and drew free throws off of offensive rebounds.  He is very active at crashing the glass, and he was able to throw down a thunderous tip slam once.  Plus, he runs the floor very well, and he would often throw down thunderous one and two-handed dunks on the break, and late in the game, he sprinted to emphatically throw one down in transition.

He also showed an adequate ability to get scores in the post.   Robinson was matched up against much smaller opponents, and he would usually take advantage of this.  Most times when he would get the ball on the block, he would catch a high entry pass, and then turn, go up, and then score quickly around the basket.  He also managed to score on an alley-oop layup on a lob play.   He has very good hands, athleticism, footwork, and quickness, and he also can outmuscle opponents down low.  But sometimes, he may rush his shots, which can lead to misses, and he even had a shot blocked by a significantly shorter opponent on one possession.

But the most impressive aspect of this game was Robinson’s ability to shoot the basketball.  He made four threes in this game, and he can make them in a variety of ways.  He made a step back three from a few feet beyond the arc, and he also knocked down a three off of a pick and pop play.  Plus, Robinson also made a deep three from the left wing, and he also made a corner three after dropping back to get the ball.

He also managed to make a long two from the baseline after running off of a curl.  Robinson did a very good job of knocking down jumpers, and making them efficiently.  However, some of his misses did look pretty bad, as he did also throw up a couple of airballs from beyond the arc despite shooting well from long-range overall.  Robinson does possess good footwork to get open, but when he shoots the basketball, he tends to lean backwards in doing so.  That may be a mechanical hitch that may need fixing, as that tendency in his approach can lead him to be inconsistent in his ability to make jumpers.

Also, he showed off adequate playmaking skills.  Though he technically only collected one assist in this game, Robinson showed a knack for throwing long, accurate outlet passes on the break, as he was able to notch an assist that way on one possession.  Plus, he will look to find the open man as he will make the extra pass, and Robinson showed off better than advertised passing skills by being able to routinely throw long passes to his teammates.

He also did not turn the ball over often, and he would set screens, as he would sometimes roll and sometimes pop off of them.  Robinson moves well on offense, and he also has very good hands, as he can often catch difficult passes to score off of them.  But he was called for hanging on the rim very early on, which resulted in a basket interference call.  Also, he threw one inaccurate outlet pass that led his teammate too far, causing the player to nearly fall out of bounds, and to throw another long inaccurate pass that led their team to commit a turnover.

Robinson also did a very good job of rebounding the basketball.  He has great size, athleticism, and instincts, and he would often haul in many boards on both ends of the floor to help his team in this game.  He has good strength to come down with strong boards on the defensive end, and he can often score off of offensive rebounds to provide second chance points for his team.  He also will tip balls to teammates to help his team get extra rebounds.  But he also would sometimes not box out his opponents, as this would lead his opponents to get scores.  In addition, he also was once called for committing an over the back foul when going for an offensive board once.

He also showed off adequate defensive skills.  Robinson is a very good help defender as he is an agile, fleet footed big man that will actively play passing lanes, as he can pick off passes to obtain steals, and he also can use his length, anticipation skills, and instincts to poke balls away and to also get deflections.  Plus, he also excels as an on-ball shot blocker, and he will often swat shots to his teammates, and he has very long arms combined with having solid timing that enables him to cover a lot of ground defensively.  Robinson most notably can swat jump shots, and he also can stay in front of his man to force opponents to miss shots from all over the floor.

But sometimes, Robinson may not be focused on this end of the floor.  There were several possessions where he had his hands down when defending an interior pass, as this would lead opponents to score on cutters as well as in transition.  He also can be undisciplined defensively.  Early on, he was called for goaltending as he was late to rotate to help in the post, and he also over-rotated on an opponent, which led him to get beat off the dribble to allow a pull-up, mid-range score to his man.  Plus, he also tended to sag too far off his man at times, as opponents would knock down jumpers on him.  Also, he would sometimes commit reach-in fouls, as he would not always make his rotations quickly when trying to help on drives to the hoop.

In general, Mitchell Robinson is a very talented player that likely possesses a ton of upside, and he is very skilled along with possessing strong athletic abilities. The way he played in this game for Chalmette, he may undoubtedly be a lottery level talent.  However, his decision to sit out the entire season could make it difficult for him to transition to the NBA game at first.  As this could be the case, the NBA team that will select him will need to be patient with him in helping him maximize his skills to the fullest. 

Therefore, he may be a high-risk, high-reward type of player in this draft.  If a team carefully works to help him develop his game, Robinson could perhaps end up becoming an NBA All-Star one day.  But if a team is impatient with him early on, Robinson could end up beginning his path by going back and forth between being in the G-League and being at the end of teams’ benches, in which the worst case scenario would be that he ends up becoming an NBA journeyman fighting for playing time for most of his career.  As it is unknown how his future NBA team will work to develop his game, on a general level, it could be risky for NBA teams to select Robinson in the lottery, but he is also a very talented player that could be a solid value pick in the mid to late first round range of the upcoming draft.