With the possible exception of Austin Rivers, Robinson had been the most disappointing 2012 lottery pick this season. An All-American and the Big 12 Player of the Year, he went fifth overall to the Sacramento Kings, who weren’t exactly loaded in the frontcourt.
There appeared to be an opportunity for Robinson to make an impact as a rookie, but he did not. He has averaged 4.8 points and 4.7 rebounds in just under 16 minutes. He has scored in double digits a mere seven times. He has three double-doubles, all in a nine-game span in January.
On Wednesday, the Kings kicked off the trade deadline hysteria by giving up on Robinson after just four months and sending him with Cisco Garcia and Tyler Honeycutt to Houston for Patrick Patterson, Toney Douglas and Cole Aldrich.
The Rockets also traded Marcus Morris to the Phoenix Suns, which means Houston cleared out both of the players who had manned their power forward spot this season. Yes, we know the Rockets like to play small with Chandler
Parsons at the 4 and Carlos Delfino at small forward. But right now, their only established NBA big man is center Omer Asik.
Aside from Robinson, the power forwards on Houston’s roster are Greg Smith and rookies Donatas Motiejunas, Terrence Jones and Royce White, all of whom have spent the season bouncing back and forth between the NBA and the D-League. You could argue that Robinson – as disappointing as he has been this season – is better than all of them.
What cannot be argued is this: Robinson now plays for a team that is clearly committed to building through youth and developing its young players at both the NBA and D-League levels. The Rockets used nine players in a 122-119
home win over Oklahoma City on Wednesday, and Delfino – who is all of 30 – was the only one with more than four seasons under his belt.
Contrast that with what is going on in Sacramento, where the Maloof family continued its penny-pinching ways in advance of selling the directionless Kings to the highest of two bidders. By dumping out of Robinson’s rookie contract (4 years, $19 million if both his options are picked up), they showed that they are far more interested in counting beans than winning games.
Robinson also exits an environment that was not conducive to development. The Kings seem to be putting out fires set by the immature DeMarcus Cousins every couple of weeks and have spent a fair amount of time over the last year-plus stroking the ego of Tyreke Evans, who refuses to modify his game for the good of himself and the team.
As far as we can see it, the only downside to Robinson leaving Sacramento is that he missed out on a chance to be overpaid by the Kings, who gave bloated contracts to Garcia, Marcus Thornton, Chuck Hayes, Jason Thompson and Travis Outlaw in recent years.
That probably wouldn’t have happened under new ownership in Sacramento or Seattle. And it certainly won’t happen in Houston, where GM Daryl Morey and his reliance on analytics has the Rockets in a playoff spot despite playing in the unforgiving Western Conference with the lowest payroll in the NBA.
Trading lottery picks in their rookie seasons happens more than you think. The Knicks moved Jordan Hill in 2010 to clear cap room and the Nets packaged Derrick Favors a year later for Deron Williams. Heck, the Rockets even traded Jeremy Lamb to get Harden right before this season started.
Although he has had a forgettable rookie campaign thus far, Robinson was a rotation player with the Kings. He has a chance to be the same with the Rockets, given their lack of muscle. He has a chance to have an early taste of the postseason, which often gets young players pointed in the right direction. And in the offseason, he will have direct access to low-post guru Hakeem Olajuwon, who can teach him some badly needed footwork.
Robinson has a second chance to make a first impression. He should try to make the most of it.
On to the rankings.