If you have been a reader of RCT for awhile, you know that one of my favorite things to do is compare KU players and teams to players and teams of the past. The main reason for this is just because it is fun, but I also think that by learning how similar players and teams improved and performed, we can learn how the current crop of players will improve and perform.
Thomas Robinson reminds me of somewhat of a hybrid of Cole Aldrich and Markieff Morris. Cole was a more traditional post up player, who, despite being better than most people remember at hitting a jumper from the elbow, relied on a back to the basket game with a couple of go to moves. Defensively he was a game changing shot blocker and elite rebounder. Markieff on the other hand really relied on his face up game and being more athletic than the big guy guarding him. He also could hit a pretty damn good trail three pointer: he only shot 59 threes last year, but made 24 of them, for a percentage of 42.4%.
Robinson can't hit the three like Markieff (though to be fair we don't know that for sure, as he has never taken one in college), but he doesn't have the refined back to the basket game like Cole either. He can put the ball on the floor and beat bigger guys to the hoop, but mostly his offense relies on catching dump off passes and putbacks off offensive rebounds. Still, his main value is in his rebounding: two years ago, Cole Aldrich was 7th in the country with a 28.5% defensive rebounding rate. Although it was in far less minutes, Thomas Robinson had a 31.1% defensive rebounding rate last season.
Whether it is because of Danny Manning, the work ethic of both Cole and Markieff, or something totally different, those two had big jumps in production from when they came to Lawrence and when they left as lottery picks. Robinson looks to do the same, but just what can we expect?
The one thing uniting the three players (hopefully) is a leap in playing time: Cole was a lightly used Freshman on the 2008 title team (except for in the Final Four, right Tyler Hansbrough?), who understandably was behind Darrell Arthur, Darnell Jackson and Sasha Kaun, and then was the main post player his Sophomore year. Markieff had his playing time increased the most from his Sophomore to his Junior year, going from around 40% minutes played to about 60%.
First, some (not so) fancy charts of how Cole and Markieff improved across the board after their playing time spiked.
Next, some fancy math (basically using the increases in Cole and Kieff's stats and applying them to TRob) to estimate how Thomas Robinson could do this year if he follows that pattern.
First of all, we can probably throw out the minutes played column. While Robinson will be leaned on heavily as he and Withey are the only two experienced bigs I think it is a tremendous stretch to assume he will play in nearly 4/5ths of the team's minutes (32 mpg). Robinson has been incredibly efficient so I do think that that eFG is within reach, and while a 35% defensive rebound rate would be in the stratosphere of some of the best rebounders in recent history, Robinson is one of the more relentless rebounders I have ever seen wear a Kansas uniform and with him being the main rebounder on the team, I imagine he won't have to "share" the rebounds like with the Morris twins last year.
Lastly, just for fun, Robinson averaged 7.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game in 14.6 minutes played last year. Here are what he would average if he scored and rebounded at the same rate for the following amount of minutes played:
25: 13 PPG, 10.95 RPG
30: 15.16 PPG, 13.15 RPG
Probably not the PPG people would expect from a Big 12 player of the year, but that is a tremendous amount of rebounds and I think it is important to remember that he will likely be taking a lot more shots next year. So while he probably won't be as efficient as he has been so far, if he can come anywhere close we could be looking at a special season. I am on the Thomas Robinson for 2012 Big 12 POY bandwagon, and I suggest you hop aboard as well.