Thomas Robinson, the 6’9” forward out of Kansas, was the Big 12 Player of the Year for the 2011-12 season and led the Jayhawks to the National Championship Game. When the Sacramento Kings drafted him fifth in June, the team’s media brief hyped Robinson’s recent accomplishments,
Robinson, First Team All-American, led the nation in double-doubles (27) and was second in rebounding.
Draft Express was also high on Robinson saying that he “exceeded all expectations” his last year in school.
Set in a mold ready for the NBA, the 240-pound power forward muscled his way to becoming not only one of the best rebounders in the country but a reliable offensive weapon, too, blossoming from a single-digit scorer into an 18 points-per-game player last season.
The Sacramento Kings had been scraping the bottom of the Pacific Division for the better part of six years, despite a wealth of draft picks (14) and budding talent: DeMarcus Cousins, Tyreke Evans, Isaiah Thomas, Jason Thompson and Jimmer Fredette.
And with their third top-five pick in four years, the Kings added Robinson to the mix.
The result? The Kings stand at 19-36.
The problem? Well, there’s no dominant offensive player but mostly, it’s defense…still.
Four of the Kings’ five starters average in double figures, led by Cousins (17.2 PPG) and Evans (15.4 PPG). But nobody’s averaged 20 points a game for the Kings in a couple years. Tough to compete in the NBA with such low production.
While the Kings did not select Robinson with offense in mind, he’s done well considering the limited minutes he's been getting. But per 36 minutes, Robinson averages a respectable 11 points and an impressive four offensive rebounds.
But it’s the defense that’s been slaying the Kings all these years.
Sacramento has had a bottom-three defense for each of the past three seasons, and it wasn’t much better the three years before that. In 2012-13, they are 30th in points allowed and worse yet in opponents’ field goal percentage.
Robinson, it was hoped in June, would be an eventual contributor on the defensive end. And to a fair extent, he has contributed already, with 10.6 rebounds per 36 minutes.
Robinson was primed for pro development, offensively and defensively, on a team that could use a little help with the former and a lot with the latter. With a little patience, maybe just a couple years, Robinson and his peers could have risen swiftly in the rankings.
So why on earth did Sacramento just trade Thomas Robinson? According to ESPN Stats & info:
Well, the Kings can move up, and moving Robinson at this stage will have little downward impact. The Kings have their main core of young talent intact, and they improved a bit in the short term with this deal.
Outside of Robinson, Sacramento has given up no players of consequence (dead-weight Francisco Garcia and Tyler Honeycutt), and in return it received from the Houston Rockets: Toney Douglas, who has some game and experience and adds depth to the whole backcourt; 23-year old power forward Patrick Patterson, who is flat-out the best player in the deal (16 points, 6.5 rebounds per 36); and Cole Aldrich, a 24-year-old center, who might at least be able to hold down the fort while Cousins is sitting.
Admittedly, none of this has really helped the defense much. But it hasn’t hurt the team, either.
On top of all that, the Kings ownership, for reasons that neither I nor a heated Yahoo’s Kelly Dwyer can fathom, shaved a sliver of cap room.
Sacramento is now in the business of fretting over minimally-priced rookie contracts. This was all about the Kings sending out over $10 million in salary and receiving just over $6.5 million back. Of course, the season is nearly two-thirds over, and those full-year salaries are nearly two-thirds paid. The savings aren’t even that significant. The Kings just dealt Thomas Robinson to save 27 games worth of salary on a player that they selected eight months ago as a top five pick. These are the Sacramento Kings owners.
The suggestion is the Kings owners did this to pocket a relative meager amount of change (it amounts to something in the six figures). Seems so small and petty an amount to really matter, despite Dwyer's (and surely most Sacramento fans') opinions of the Maloofs.
Maybe the new ownership had something to do with it. It's possible.
Either way, not a bad trade for Sacramento or the Rockets. Seems pretty balanced. Let's check in, in a few years to see.