In their rookie seasons. however, Robinson and Lillard could not be farther apart.
To be fair, Lillard has had a better opportunity to show his wares. Portland basically gave him the point guard position with carte blanche to learn on the job, dumping everyone from last season except Nolan Smith.
Robinson wasn’t walking right into a chasm of a starting spot. But he did seem more than capable of backing up the starting big man tandem of DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson and making his mark over the course of the campaign.
Instead, Robinson has been a huge disappointment. He is 12th – Twelfth! – on the Kings in scoring at 4.6 points per game. He has scored in double digits once. To put that in perspective, Knicks rookie free agent Chris Copeland has four double-digit games.
Robinson is shooting 40 percent from the field, even though his game is almost entirely below the foul line. He misses layups and even dunks with alarming regularity. Mid-range jump shots are an adventure. The biggest impact he has made was on Jonas Jerebko’s throat.
Robinson’s struggles were evident in Sacramento’s loss at Portland on Wednesday night. He didn’t get the start, even though Cousins did not make the trip. He misfired badly on three mid-range jumpers, dropping to 4-of-18 for the season. His three baskets were a putback and two dunks, the last one a leakout windmill in garbage time that may have been out of frustration but looked pretty silly.
And there was stark contrast to the collection of rookies on the Blazers. All five played considerable minutes and displayed a belief in themselves despite making mistakes.
Beyond Lillard’s excellence, Will Barton showed no fear as he scored 14 points in 26 minutes, both season highs. Meyers Leonard was slow in rotations but managed to offer seven points and five boards at backup center. And although neither shot well, both Victor Claver and Joel Freeland did so with confidence.
Long-term, only Leonard figures to get consistent minutes going forward. Once Wesley Matthews returns from his hip flexor, that will marginalize Barton and Claver. And double-double machine J.J. Hickson will keep Freeland anchored to the bench. But for now, they are finding ways to contribute, which is more than Robinson can say.
There are trade rumors swirling around Cousins, which could provide a huge opportunity for Robinson to show something – anything – that warrants being the fifth overall pick, a draft slot he shares with Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. Of course, he also shares the same slot with the knuckleheaded Cousins and complete bust Shelden Williams, whom he is starting to resemble.
It’s up to him.
On to the rankings.