In what was ultimately a heartbreaking 72-70 loss to Arizona, Glenn Robinson III reminded us why many had pegged him as a lottery prospect following the 2012-13 season.
As a freshman at Michigan, he flashed enough potential to generate some serious NBA draft buzz. But the keyword here is "flashed." You only saw it a few times a game.
With Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. in the lineup, Robinson was at the bottom of the team's offensive pecking order, and his raw skill set prevented him from really ever taking the initiative.
Now that Burke and Hardaway are in the pros, Robinson has found himself in excellent position to turn those flashes into a steady steam of production. But he hasn't quite capitalized on his expanded role as a sophomore.
However, Robinson strung together his most productive stretch of the year in the first half against Arizona. He finished the game with a season-high 20 points on 8-of-9 shooting:
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"I just got to the rim and tried to stay aggressive," Robinson told reporters following the loss, via of UMHoops.com.
It was the type of performance we've been expecting to see from him on a more routine basis. College Basketball Talk's Rob Dauster highlighted how tough Robinson makes Michigan when he's on his game.
Before getting into his strengths and what he did well against Arizona, let's first address what type of NBA player Robinson projects as. At 6'6'' with superb athleticism and a body built for the wing, his physical tools and game could resemble Andrew Iguodala of the Golden State Warriors.
Offensively, Robinson excels as a half-court slasher and finisher, spot-up shooter and transition weapon. He's more of a complementary scorer than a go-to one. You wouldn't rely on Robinson to go out and get you a bucket, just like Iggy isn't a guy you'd often feature as a top gun.
Even so, scouts have been wanting to see Robinson add a little more offensive creativity to his repertoire. Without the ability to create, he's had to depend on others to create his opportunities for him—and with that approach, he's been vulnerable to putting up duds in the scoring column.
But against Arizona, Robinson showed why the NBA guys are likely to remain somewhat patient with his development.
Though still unrefined, he displayed some terrific offensive moves—moves that if he can implement into his everyday arsenal would multiply the threat he poses to defenses. And in turn, it would boost his value dramatically as a prospect.
The highlight of his day came on a beautiful step-back jumper, where he displayed the ability to separate, rise with balance and knock down a shot off the dribble with three-point range.
Imagine if the step-back became a shot that Robinson can go to for offense? He's certainly shown he's capable of executing it—the question is how consistently can he get it off and knock it down?
Robinson also showed some maturity with regard to recognizing a tough shot versus getting an easier one. In a rare isolation opportunity, Michigan got the ball to Robinson one-on-one in space. And instead of rising for a contested mid-range jumper, he threw up a fake, put it on the floor and got to the rack for a layup at the rim.
One of the more underrated aspects of Robinson's game is his ability to pose as a glowing target for playmakers when he doesn't have the ball. In the half court, the majority of his points usually come as a result of him slipping behind the defense, cutting through the lane or dipping backdoor for a bucket at the rim.
Watch him give his penetrating ball-handler a target by sneaking baseline for a catch-and-finish:
Robinson looked like a more complete player in the first half against the Wildcats. The challenge for him has been, and will continue to be sustaining his strong play. He only took two shots in the second half of a tight game against the No. 1 team as a top-two offensive option. Robinson will have to be a little more assertive if he wants to really keep scouts' heads turned.
But at least we saw the potential that triggers teams to reach in the NBA draft. He has the physical tools and game—it's just a matter of putting it all together.
He needed this one badly, both from a confidence and draft-stock standpoint. He'd only been shooting 44 percent from the floor and 28 percent from three.
Robinson's 20 points against Arizona were an important reminder that despite the slow start, he still has terrific natural talent with long-term NBA upside—potentially. And at just 19 years old, that's all that really matters.