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Mitchell Robinson is a tantalizing, but risky option for the Wizards

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High School Basketball: 40th Annual McDonald's All-American Games Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

I challenge anyone to find a player that has been more of an enigma in this year’s NBA draft than 7 footer Mitchell Robinson. The high school All-American enters this year’s NBA draft with so many unknowns about him. So much so that it has become very challenging to evaluate what kind of NBA player he can be.

The Louisiana product put up incredible numbers in high school, averaging 20.9 points, 13.6 rebounds and 8.1 blocks per game during his senior season at Chalmette Prep. He was a consensus five-star recruit and a top-10 recruit on some reputable college recruiting websites.

After his senior year, Mitchell Robinson committed to going to Western Kentucky University. After a few weeks of practices during the summer, he abruptly left the program without informing the school or the basketball program of his decision. He was indefinitely suspended by WKU’s coach Rick Stansbury. Reportedly, he contemplated transferring to Kansas or University of New Orleans, but he would have had to sit out a year due to NCAA transfer rules. Instead of transferring, or playing a year in Europe like Emmanuel Mudiay, he opted to spend the year preparing for the draft with a trainer.

Teams were eager to see Robinson at the NBA Combine since they didn’t get a chance to see him play anywhere this season, but on the eve of the NBA combine he withdrew from that as well. Unfortunately for teams like the Wizards, the only thing teams have to go off of in evaluations are his performances in high school and his draft workouts.

Robinson has a lot of potential as a productive NBA center, but he is extremely raw. Wizards fans will surely draw some parallels between him and former Wizard JaVale McGee. Interestingly enough, they have a similarity you might not expect. In college, McGee attempted 42 3-pointers and tried to establish himself as a player who could be a stretch big. Robinson tried to do the same thing in an interview with DraftExpress last year:

If the Wizards draft Robinson, they will need to learn from what they did well and what they did wrong with McGee’s development in Washington. It would be a mistake to put Robinson in a position to where he has to start or be an important contributor right away. McGee had to produce right away after Brendan Haywood went down with an injury before the season, and once he started making highlights, it was difficult to get him back on the proper development track.

Washington can look at how the Rockets brought along Clint Capela for a blueprint on how to develop a raw talent. The Rockets started him out with a very narrow focus, and only played him 12 games his rookie season. Slowly, they broadened his role as he added more elements to his game, and this season, he became one of the most effective big men in the league.

Highlight videos and private workouts can provide a tantalizing view of players like Mitchell Robinson, and he should be an interesting target for many teams. However, we also have to consider his last competitive game was over a year ago in high school and he’s made some questionable decisions since then. It will be impossible to know how much he’s grown until he takes the floor in Las Vegas for Summer League, and even then, there will still be questions until this fall.

It is certainly possible he could become a good, if not great player, but the team that picks him has to be in a position where they can afford to be wrong. The Wizards aren’t in that spot right now. They can’t afford to whiff after going two years without drafting a player and they need players who can contribute sooner than later while John Wall is still in his prime. Perhaps if they can trade back and acquire someone who can help while Robinson grows, that would change the calculus, but as it stands the Wizards need a more proven commodity with the 15th overall pick.

Strengths

  • Tall and athletic.
  • Has good touch around the rim.
  • Potential as a rim protector.
  • Moves exceptionally well for his size.

Weaknesses

  • He’s undisciplined at times on defense. He plays too far off players on the perimeter, stands up too much, and swipes at the ball instead of moving his feet.
  • Questionable motor.
  • Relies on his length and athleticism to grab boards instead of working to get proper position.
  • Needs to add strength and weight to hold up against NBA big men.
  • His shooting form needs refinement.