In one of the most shocking deals of the 2013 NBA trade deadline, the Sacramento Kings traded rookie Thomas Robinson to the Houston Rockets (via USA Today). Robinson was selected fifth overall this past June and was expected to create an elite frontcourt with center DeMarcus Cousins.
Instead, Robinson has become a dream acquisition for the Rockets.
In the trade, the Rockets sent Patrick Patterson, Toney Douglas and Cole Aldrich to the Kings. In return, they received Robinson, Francisco Garcia and Tyler Honeycutt.
In other words, the Rockets dealt their starting and second-unit power forward in order to acquire a rookie. While some might view this as an act of desperation, it was something more than that.
It was a display of belief in what Robinson could bring to the Rockets as a team and organization.
For some background information, Robinson is a 21-year-old power forward from the University of Kansas. He's an interior workhorse with a phenomenal work ethic and well-respected character.
Robinson's ability to respond to tragedy is a sign of that (from ESPN via the Associated Press):
A single mom, Lisa Robinson was 37 when she died of an apparent heart attack around 11 p.m. Friday, coach Bill Self said. She had lost her own mother and father in the past few weeks.
"Thomas [Robinson] lost his grandmother at the very end of December," Self said. "He lost his grandfather on Sunday and lost his mother on Friday night. For him to even be out there is remarkable."
For those in need of context, Robinson lost his mother, grandmother and grandfather within a matter of a month—he responded by playing in Kansas' very next game. One year later, Robinson received his opportunity to shine at Kansas with Marcus and Markieff Morris in the NBA. He responded as well as you could ask of him.
In 2011-12, Robinson averaged 17.7 points and 11.9 rebounds per game. He also led Kansas to the national championship game.
Three months later, he was selected with the fifth overall draft choice in the 2012 NBA draft. Less than eight months after that, he fell into the Rockets' lap.
A blessing in the form of a financially-driven trade.
Up-Tempo Big Man
Thomas Robinson will bust his tail on the interior and impose his will on the glass on both ends of the floor. With an NBA body and an undeniable work ethic, the Houston Rockets received a more athletic and well-rounded version of Omer Asik.
The key is the athleticism factor.
The Rockets are a team that loves to get out in transition. Led by open-court dynamos such as James Harden and Jeremy Lin, Houston is the type of team that can put up points in a hurry.
That's why they lead the NBA at 107.0 points per contest.
What the Rockets have lacked, however, is an athletic big man who can run in transition and finish with power. Marcus Morris could have been that player, but he was used primarily as a floor-spacer.
Robinson, however, will throw down furious dunks and run just as well as his guard counterparts. This will open up the Rockets offense even more than it had been before.
His ability to finish in the lane will be welcomed, as will his ability to step up for a jump shot. All in all, Robinson is more than the ideal power forward for the Rockets.
He's a perfect fit.
The Houston Rockets have done a masterful job of working both the trade market and free agency over the past calendar year. In that time, they've acquired James Harden, Omer Asik, Jeremy Lin, Carlos Delfino and, now, Thomas Robinson.
That's not just a quality squad, folks. That's a potentially elite core.
Harden is already proving to be fine without Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook casting their respective shadows. Harden is fifth in the NBA in scoring and leads all shooting guards in assists.
The key for Houston is to find Harden a second star—if they haven't already. Rockets GM Daryl Morey stated (via ESPN's Grantland):
We haven't done anything yet ... We are still on pace to be a no. 6–no. 10 seed. We still have a long way to go, but we definitely like our position better. We probably got the hardest part done, but now we have to get a second star to go with James [Harden]. Until we become a real contender, it's fair for the critics to sit back and say, "What have they really done?"
It may take some time, but Robinson and Jeremy Lin could develop into the supporting cast Morey is looking for.
This is not to suggest that the Rockets need not explore free agency, as they should. Landing a present-day star to go with Harden is an undeniable way to succeed in this era of the NBA.
With that being said, don't think for a second that Robinson is just some fly on the wall—he's a legitimate impact player.
This is an individual with the motor to get in on every play and the will to succeed at the NBA level. He's a potential double-double threat and could become a player of J.J. Hickson's mold.
The Portland Trail Blazers center is currently fourth in the NBA in double-doubles.
For that reason, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, again, hit the jackpot with an unlikely move. Robinson not only provides a short-term benefit, but a long-term rise to stardom.
Some how, some way, Houston just keeps getting better with every passing day.