Thomas Robinson's freakish athleticism and physical attributes have never been in question.
As the No. 5 overall pick just a year ago, the Kansas product finally has a chance to thrive and be given an opportunity to display the potential that had NBA scouts salivating over his upside.
Robinson was surprisingly dumped by the Sacramento Kings in a cost-saving move last February. The Houston Rockets then had bigger plans in mind, looking to trade Robinson to free up cap space to sign Dwight Howard.
Fortunately for the Portland Trail Blazers, they swooped in and acquired one of the top draft prospects not too long ago—a player taken one slot ahead of Damian Lillard—in exchange for two European players and two second-round draft picks. Robinson was once compared to Derrick Williams and Patrick Patterson, via NBADraft.net, and Al Horford, via DraftExpress.net, coming out of college.
Yes, the 22-year-old is far from a finished product. His post moves are currently a work in progress, but the signs are encouraging that T-Rob is far from the bust label that most prospects may earn when traded twice during their rookie year.
On Sunday night, Robinson had the game's biggest highlight, racing in from the free-throw line and soaring for a huge putback left-handed jam against his former team, the Kings.
When talking about highlights of Robinson, you can't forget last season's soaring putback over Howard that had the Staples Center buzzing.
Resembling another Kings castaway who eventually thrived in Rip City, Robinson has a chance to find his niche, much like J.J. Hickson did as an all-out hustle and energy player. After a disappointing start to his career, Hickson blossomed in Portland but was too undersized at center to stay and signed with the Denver Nuggets this past summer.
According to Robinson, the one obstacle in his way to having a breakout season will simply be mental.
"Coach [David] Vanterpool says I'm an average player when I think, an above-average player when I just play." Thomas Robinson— Ben Golliver (@blazersedge) October 21, 2013
On Sunday, Robinson had 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting, eight rebounds and three assists, starting in place of LaMarcus Aldridge in the Blazers fourth-straight victory in the preseason.
He became the talk of the locker room, finally showing flashes of what his teammates had seen during training camp. Lillard was one of those happy to see it, via The Oregonian:
That’s what we’ve been seeing since September, that whole month that we played open gym, pickup ball, he was a beast. He was making jump shots, making good passes, rebounding the ball. Tonight was the first time he put it all together in a game like we’ve been seeing.
The biggest question for Robinson, like many young players, is finding that consistency night in and night out. Developing a post game, a reliable shot and being dependable on defense will go a long way to whether he'll be a potential starter in this league or a career-long reserve.
Robinson will play a huge factor for the Blazers this season on a revamped bench unit. Also, should Aldridge miss time due his nagging quad and knee injuries suffered during the preseason, the Blazers will no question turn to Robinson to fill the role.
Unlike his previous two stops, we may finally be able to see what the talk around Robinson was all about.