Yep - I'm bringing them back. This is the first installment in a series of regular postings on draft prospects. This series will take a look at draft prospects for the 2018 NBA Draft in June, with a focus on prospects the Wizards might have a chance to select. The plan is to complete one or two a week, leading up to a flurry of activity the week of the draft.
Age at time of draft
7’0" (with shoes)
Average Mock Draft rank
In July 2017, Mitchell Robinson enrolled at Western Kentucky University. Two weeks later he left campus and returned home. After being contacted at home by Western Kentucky Head Coach Rick Stansbury, Mitchell said he was having second thoughts about attending WKU. Stansbury issued a statement that said "WKU freshman center Mitchell Robinson has been granted his release to transfer from the Hilltopper program. After discussing Mitchell’s future with him Monday evening, we agreed that it would be best for both sides to allow him to move in a different direction."
Robinson then visited several other universities but then inexplicably in August, he re-enrolled at WKU. Then in early September, left WKU again and announced that he was skipping college altogether and started training for the 2018 NBA Draft.
Confused? So was Rick Stansbury - And so am I.
This creates a bit of a problem for NBA General Managers. Although Robinson was a five-star high school recruit and a McDonald’s All-American, there is very little for NBA General Managers and scouts to go on in deciding whether to draft him. That makes Robinson a high-risk, high-reward prospect.
It also creates a problem for me. I was only able to find a couple of high school games to review for this prospect profile; so I am at the same disadvantage as NBA General Managers, albeit with far lesser ramifications. I would like to remind readers that with so little video available, it’s hard to get a really accurate scouting report on Robinson. I was only able to find four full games and some highlight videos. I never use highlight videos for prospect profiles because they rarely, if ever, show missed shots, mistakes, lack of effort and other negative attributes.
Most of the scouting reports I read said that Mitchell Robinson looked absolutely dominant in high school - but let’s face it, if you’re 7-feet tall and can run and jump without looking like Pee-wee Herman, you’re gonna look pretty good in a high school basketball setting.
The appeal of Mitchell Robinson is almost entirely related to his physical profile. At the 2017 McDonald's All-American, Robinson measured 7'1" in shoes with a 7'4" wingspan at 233-pounds. He’s long and lanky, coordinated, and he’s got an elite bounce once he gathers. He shows some quick moves on defense and he’s got a quick first, and second jump. He’s got broad shoulders and a solid frame that should fill out nicely once he gets on an NBA weight program. He’s got excellent shot-blocking instincts. Just based on his physical profile, he looks the part of an NBA defensive anchor.
It struck me how much he reminded me of a young Hassan Whiteside. Robinson’s measurements are almost identical to Whiteside’s measurements from 2010 (the year he was drafted); although Whiteside has a bit longer wingspan. They have the same physical profile. They are both gifted athletes with the coordination, footwork, timing, verticality, and length to be differences makers on defense.
As a Senior at Chalmette High School (Louisiana), he averaged 25.7 points, 12.6 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 1.8 steals and 6.0 blocks per game. He shot 60% from the field, 28% from three (on 3.9 attempts per game) and 59% from the Free Throw line. That same year he had 4 triple doubles (points, rebounds, blocks), and recorded an incredible 16 blocks in one game. As a Junior he had 11 games with double-digit blocks - and an almost unbelievable 20 blocks in a game.
I watched several full high school games and Robinson is a mixed bag. On the one hand, he showed he is terrific rim protector with length, athleticism, and tremendous timing. He blocked a ton of shots in the games I watched. Like all young players, he did bite on a few pump fakes, but not as many as I thought he would. That same length, timing, and athleticism were on display when he rebounded the basketball as well. He was a force both on the defensive and offensive glass, with a fair number of his points coming on offensive rebound putback dunks.
On the other hand, his offense is extremely rudimentary. Right now he is limited to alley-oops, put back dunks and the occasional 3-point shot (28% from the high school 3-point line). His lack of basic footwork and post moves will severely curtail his offensive effectiveness in the NBA where he won’t be able to just dunk over everyone. He’ll be playing against guys his size every night and will need to learn how to set screens, and use basic footwork in the post to get his shot off.
In one game (vs Helen Cox High School), Robinson didn’t seem to want to sprint down the court, either on offense or defense. He looked disengaged and sluggish, even though he eventually scored 39 points, grabbed 17 rebounds, and had 8 blocks. But in other games, he seemed more engaged and into the game. Not sure if he was ill in the Cox game - or if his motor just runs hot and cold.
One saving grace offensively might be his jump shot. Right now it’s all over the place. His release point is not consistent. He shoots with his feet apart sometimes, and together other times. But his follow through is good - and when he has his feet set, he looks the part of a modern-day NBA stretch 5. He needs a lot of work, and a lot of repetitions; but I could see him eventually (in 2 or 3 years) turning into a decent shooter.
Mitchell has some bad habits that a year or two in College could have certainly helped. He needs to work on his post game. He rarely boxes out and almost all his rebounds were of the "I’m tall, so I can reach higher than you" type. He needs to learn not to reach on defense, and instead "play big". He gets pushed off the block in the post by smaller players; He needs to learn how to play with a stronger base, bend his knees and lower his center-of-gravity for leverage. His activity level and energy need to be more consistent. These are all things that could have been corrected with a year or two of college ball, but instead, an NBA head coach will need to take the next couple years to teach him the fundamentals. I'm not sure there's a lot of NBA head coaches with that type of patience.
- Tremendous size and length
- Explosive athleticism
- Potential 3-point threat
- Outstanding shot blocker with terrific timing
- Good hands
- Smooth, coordinated movements
- Good rebounder
- Elite defensive potential
- High upside
- Still very young
- Basketball IQ
- Turnover prone
- Post game is nonexistent
- Ball handling
- Needs to add strength
- Not NBA ready
- Effort. Doesn't always play hard
- Needs polish
Robinson is one of the more intriguing prospects in the draft. His physical profile, with impressive length, athleticism, and shot-blocking instincts will almost certainly make the NBA scouts and General Managers drool. He has almost unlimited upside with a ton of untapped potential. Having said that, he is still a long, long way from contributing to an NBA team. He chose not to play college basketball this season and that certainly won't help his NBA readiness - but I’m positive there is a team out there willing to take a chance on him with a pick in the 20's.