By LARRY VAUGHT
If you wonder how NBA teams could risk a first-round draft pick on Kentucky freshman Jarred Vanderbilt because of his injury history, think about Mitchell Robinson.
He was the McDonald’s All-American who signed with Western Kentucky, left campus during the summer, came back when the fall semester started and then left again.
He did not play anywhere last season, but he’s projected as a first-round pick in Thursday’s draft in every mock draft I have seen.
“Mitchell Robinson is sort of a mystery man in this draft. He’s seven feet tall basically and another guy that’s incredibly long. He’s got one of the longer wingspans of the draft at like 7-4. So he’s a top 10 talent that may wind up going in the second round because of, you know, sort of concerns that, you know, you haven’t seen him in a while,” ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas said today during a conference call.
I watched Robinson easily outplay Kentucky’s Nick Richards during the McDonald’s All-American Game. He has all the skills needed but his disappearing act this season certainly should cause some alarm.
“He’s a bit of an unknown. But with his size, his length, his ability to block shots, how quick he is off the floor, his talent level, somebody’s going to get a steal in him if they wind up taking him in the second round,” Bilas said.
“I know that there are — have been sort of comparisons to could he be like a Clint Capela type player. That’s what it’s going to take for him. He’s really an interesting prospect. His mobility sets him apart because he can run to the rim. You can just throw the ball up to him and he can catch lobs, and he’s got a burst to him with his athleticism level and his size.
“I think there’s a lot of — you’ve got a lot of positives there. It’s just sort of a question of, you know, there are a lot of things you don’t know as well with him not having played at Western Kentucky at all last year.”
ESPN NBA scouting analyst Mike Schmitz says Robinson has “unbelievable agility” for his size and says he has not “looked out of place” playing against Deandre Ayton or Mo Bamba, the two top centers in the draft, in the past.
“I’ve seen him play against those guys and more than hold his own. He was unbelievable at the AAU circuit,” Schmitz said.
“The questions with him are not what happens on the court. I think it’s his approach to the game and continuing to be consistent with that, also being able to, I think, retain all the defensive schemes or offensive sets and pick things up quickly. Those are all questions for him, and obviously the route he took maybe didn’t completely help him in that regard.
“To me, he’s a guy, it might take him until his second team or something like that to — maybe even third, to fully maximize his potential. But if he lands in the right situation with veterans and a really strict schedule and, hey, this is what you’re doing, this is how we want you to play, then he has a chance to be really impactful in the NBA.”