The 2018 NBA Draft is flush with centers who bring high upside potential but are plagued with question marks and no player personifies that more than Mitchell Robinson. At 7-feet tall and with great mobility around the rim, Robinson might be the best shot blocking big in a draft class that features a guy with an 7’10 wingspan, a guy built like David Robinson, and a guy who averaged 3 blocks per game in college.
However, Robinson’s draft profile is shrouded in mystery. He missed out on his college career at Western Kentucky University after departing the school abruptly last September, announcing shortly after that he would spend a year preparing for the NBA on his own. He explored playing in the G-League for a season but a technicality rendered him ineligible since he enrolled in Western Kentucky before dropping out. He is likely to be the first high-level NBA draft prospect to miss out on playing in either NCAA or professionally. He was also scheduled to participate at the NBA combine but withdrew on the day of the event.
Height with shoes: 7’
Weight: 223 lbs
The only semi-relevant statistics to go off of for Mitchell Robinson are his high school stats and his stats at the Nike Elite Youth Basketball (EYBL) circuit. EYBL features many of the top high school prospects in the county so it’s one of the best opportunities to see how elite talent stacks up against other great players. According to the NBA Draft scouting site TheStepien.com, “EYBL numbers, especially defensive numbers, have so far proven to be useful and translatable at higher levels of play.”
Mitchell Robinson at EYBL
15.5 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 4.1 blocks
He also averaged 20 rebounds per-40 minutes in the EYBL, the highest mark in the competition’s history including 8 offensive rebounds per-40 which was also #1 in EYBL history.
Mitchell Robinson in high school
25.7 points, 12.6 rebounds, and 6 blocked shots
Shot blocking: Robinson is a projected top 20 pick because he has shown signs of being an elite shot blocker. He’s athletic and light on his feet and seems to take pride in protecting the rim.
Athletic profile: Few players have his combination of size and mobility, especially in the paint and in the open court. In transition, he has long, fluid strides that help him cover a lot of ground quickly. Around the paint, Robinson is light on his feet. He has what Jay Bilas likes to call, “second jumpability,” the ability to make several jumps in a row to challenge multiple shots in a row or grab rebounds after altering shots. He is also great at closing long distances to close out on shooters on the perimeter.
Some impressive moments from Mitchell Robinson here in LA. Effortless athlete with elite agility at 7-1 with a 7-4 wingspan and a 9-3 standing reach. Potential as a vertical spacer. pic.twitter.com/OlPpz6yOFf— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) May 31, 2018
Mitchell Robinson showed off some touch from 3 tonight. Definitely has skill potential to tap into. Will benefit from focusing on being a dominant shot blocker, rim runner, lob catcher, and rebounder first then build out the rest of his offensive game. pic.twitter.com/uLcG9ebbxj— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) May 31, 2018
Upside to add more offensive polish: Unlike most shot blockers, Robinson looks like he has the coordination and foundation to add a lot of polish to his offensive game. His set shot looks smooth and he has some fluidity to his movements with the ball in his hands even if he needs work on polishing his shot creation abilities.
Intangibles/Attitude: Robinson’s bizarre departure from Western Kentucky brings up a lot of red flags. This line from TheStepien - “Not a bad guy by any stretch but shy and family oriented, is he ready to be under the public’s microscope 24 hours a day, everyday?” - really reminds me of Emmanuel Mudiay. Will he be willing to take criticism and advice while handling adversity? How will he handle DNP-CD’s early in his career?
Too much unknown about him: Without a season of college or professional hoops under his belt, so much of Robinson’s scouting report hinges on his high school and AAU career.
Tries to block everything: Robinson’s elite upside is paired with his raw basketball IQ which includes his propensity to jump at every shot fake. Usually a season of college basketball helps speed up the learning curve on things like this but without that benefit, will his feel for the game be even more stunted than usual?
Fit with the Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets have their center of the future so gambling on a high-upside, low-floor center would seem like an odd choice. However, there is plenty of statistical and anecdotal evidence that you always take the best player available in the draft and sort things out later. Robinson might be the best player to fall outside of the top 10 and could even be the best player in the draft.
He could be anything! That’s what’s so tough about him. The physical tools are there in spades. Denver would just need to feel very confident that they know what they are getting if they decide to take a flyer on him.