In terms of accolades, stats and accomplishments, Glenn Robinson III’s freshman season couldn’t have gone much better in Ann Arbor. Robinson started all 39 games for a team that reached the National Championship game. He averaged 11 points and five rebounds per game and was named to the All-Big Ten Freshman team.
By the time Robinson’s first season was over, he was projected nearly unanimously as a likely NBA lottery pick before opting to return to school. Despite Robinson’s sterling season, it’s impossible to shake the feeling that we don’t really know all of what Robinson can do – for better or worse.
Robinson used just 15% of Michigan’s possessions when he was on the floor. Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Nik Stauskas and (especially in the NCAA tournament) Mitch McGary were Michigan’s primary offensive options. In terms of possession usage, Robinson was comparable to the man he replaced, Zack Novak. Despite that fact, Robinson’s ruthless efficiency and ability to finish at the rim was unmatched and made his teammates look great.
- Efficiency: Robinson was a low usage player but there weren’t many better finishers in the college game last season. Robinson’s offensive rating 128.4 was 10th best in the country and he posted a similar mark of 128.2 in Big Ten games – the best in the league. Robinson’s effective field goal percentage of 61% is the sort of number you usually see from big men or spot up shooters – not a 6-foot-6 slashing athlete. Despite a long three point drought, he finished at an acceptable 32.4% from three point range to go along with his 65% 2-point shooting.
- Cutting: The impressive finishes grab all of the headlines but Robinson’s basketball IQ is obvious when you go back and watch film. He did a great job of reading the game and making himself available as a target for Michigan’s ball handler, usually Trey Burke. 22% of his offensive possessions were cuts to the basket and Michigan scored a superb 1.44 points per possession when he caught the ball cutting to the hoop. No other player in the Big Ten scored as many points as Robinson cutting to the hoop and only Jared Berggren and Sam Dekker matched his efficiency with a reasonable number of opportunities. His ability to provide a third option on ball screens for Trey Burke was sometimes forgotten and will be critical in helping Derrick Walton assimilate into the Wolverine offense.
- Transition: While he didn’t match Cody Zeller (1.4 PPP) and Tim Hardaway Jr.’s (1.37 PPP) elite transition effectiveness last season, Robinson was a very good finisher in transition. He scored 1.24 points per possession in the full court and caught more lob finishes at the rim than any Michigan player since Brent Petway. He was Michigan’s No. 3 transition option in terms of volume as his 74 transition possessions ranked behind Trey Burke (146 poss, 1.075 PPP) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (113 poss, 1.37 PPP) but well ahead of Nik Stauskas (58 poss. 1.103 PPP) and Mitch McGary (31 poss, 1.355 PPP). This is something that should translate to his sophomore season as Derrick Walton is a great full court passer and should provide plenty of chances.
Room for improvement
- Creating Offense: Robinson’s efficiency is unquestionable but he probably had the best set of training wheels in the country last season. Trey Burke was an immeasurable asset to Robinson’s development. I went back and watched all 122 field goals that Robinson made in half court settings last year and classified them as either assisted, created (dribble drive, pump fake and shot, etc.) or put backs.
- Over eight out of ten Robinson makes in the half court were either put-backs or assisted by a teammate. Four out of every ten of his half court makes were assisted just by Trey Burke. Robinson created just six half court made field goals in Michigan’s first 20 games but did show improvement late in the season, against better competition, creating eight field goals during 11 March and April games. If Robinson is going to boost his draft stock as a sophomore, it’s going to start by creating offense off of the bounce.
- Rebounding: Robinson was undersized to play the four last season but on the whole his rebounding ability disappointed. His defensive rebounding percentage of 11.4% more closely resembled the guard he wanted to be rather than the four position he was playing. Michigan’s true big men all had defensive rebounding percentages above 18.5% and even Tim Hardaway Jr. had a defensive rebounding percentage of 14.8%. Robinson’s 11.4% was closer to Nik Stauskas (9.4%), Caris LeVert (9.9%) and Spike Albrecht (10%).
- Defense: The Synergy Sports numbers paint Robinson as the second best defending in the Michigan rotation (after Jordan Morgan) last season. But as the season wore on, it was clear that opponents began to exploit Robinson defensively. He struggled to guard more traditional four men and seemed to lack the tenacity on the defensive side of the ball to make up for his size disadvantage. That being said, he had enough strong defensive performances that it’s obvious the tools are there – adding consistency and intensity on that side of the ball is the next step. Robinson’s lack of aggressiveness on the defensive end also shows up in the foul column where he was whistled for just 1.3 fouls per 40 minutes, 13th fewest in Division I.
Robinson salvaged his season in the NCAA tournament. After being held to single figures in eight of his final 12 Big Ten (and Big Ten Tournament) games and averaging just eight points per contest, Robinson rediscovered his confidence. He reached double figures in five of six NCAA tournament games and averaged 13 points per game on the game’s biggest stage.
Robinson passed his test as a freshman. John Beilein couldn’t have asked for much more but it’s impossible to ignore the shift in role that awaits him as a sophomore. The grading scale and expectations will change as a sophomore.
Bottom Line: Robinson’s efficiency will obviously see some regression toward the mean as he uses more possessions but his ability to handle roughly another 200 possessions in a season will determine his future. If he thrives on the wing as a primary scorer for the Wolverines, he’s probably a top-10 pick. If he struggles with ball handling duties and creating offense off of the dribble then he could start to see a slip in his draft stock.
Give him credit, he’s confident that he’ll elevate his game .
I feel like people have only seen one side of my game, cant wait to see the shock on peoples faces when the see the real GRIII. #Excited
— Glenn Robinson III (@GRIII) June 21, 2013
Robinson’s return to school was a gamble in himself. He could have gone pro, banking on NBA general managers believing he could elevate his game. But instead he returned to school to prove that he can elevate his game. Robinson had a great freshman year. He did everything that could be asked of him. And for all the talk about Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. making Robinson look good, he made them look great by finishing nearly every opportunity. Every coach in the world would beg to have a supporting option as efficient and athletic as Robinson on their roster.
Now it’s time to see if he’s ready to embrace his new role and step up as a leader for the 2013-14 Wolverines.