Report Card 2014: Glenn Robinson III

Dylan Burkhardt

Michigan vs Michigan State_25
Scott Mapes

Previously: Nik Stauskas, Jordan Morgan

Glenn Robinson III played 76 games in a Michigan uniform and was always been faced with the unenviable task of living up to his potential. He can jump so high, why doesn’t he dominate every game?

As a freshman, Robinson didn’t do much other than dunk. He was one of the best finishers in the country – but almost everything he did was a product of Trey Burke’s offensive abilities. That wasn’t a problem, it was what that team needed. Burke and Hardaway dominated the ball, and Michigan finished the season with the best offense in the country.

This year Robinson was supposed to turn into an offensive star. Judging by his mindset in the offseason, Robinson knew as much.

“I feel like people have only seen one side of my game,” Robinson tweeted last June. “[I] cant wait to see the shock on peoples faces when the see the real GRIII.”

That didn’t quite happen. It was Nik Stauskas, not Robinson, that emerged as Michigan’s superstar and lottery pick. Robinson was arguably Michigan’s third option and he would probably admit that we never saw the “real GRIII”.

But too many are quick to out and out discredit Robinson’s improvement. He still expanded his game as a sophomore and Michigan still had the best offense in the country, despite losing Burke and Hardaway. As a freshman, the Northwest Indiana native used just 15.2% of Michigan’s offensive possessions – classified as a ‘limited role’ by Ken Pomeroy. As a sophomore, he increased his usage rate to 21.2% – ‘significant contributor’ and was still the 8th most efficient player in the Big Ten (>20% usage).


13.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.2 apg, 113.7 ORtg, 21.2 %Poss

The Good

  • Finishing: Robinson shot 68% on shots within five feet of the rim. That’s a really good number, especially considering that Robinson isn’t just a 7-foot tall big man that finishes dunks and putbacks. He showed an increased versatility to finish through, over, and around opposing defenders at the rim, but his ability to convert never wavered.
  • Key Shots: Despite all of the attention to his struggles, Robinson hit some very important shots this year:
  • Perhaps the shots he hit were magnified because he struggles at other times, but without some of Robinson’s critical shots, the Wolverines might not have managed to win the Big Ten Championship – certainly not with as much ease.
  • Improved Offensive Creation: It might not always have seemed like it, but Robinson created more offense this season. As a freshman 6.8% percent of his offensive possessions were isolations or ball screens. As a sophomore, that number increased to 21 percent. Robinson was slightly less efficient, but undoubtedly more aggressive with the ball in his hands as a sophomore.

Room for Improvement:

  • Rebounding: We all know how athletic Robinson is and that’s what makes his rebounding numbers so troubling. His defensive rebounding rate increased a tenth of a percent from 11.4 to 11.5. His offensive rebounding rate dropped from 7.8% to 6.0%. There’s no reason that Derrick Walton or Caris LeVert should grab more defensive rebounds than a player with Robinson’s athletic ability.
  • Three-Point Shooting: Robinson shot just 30.6% on threes — down from 32.4% as a freshman. His stroke never looked bad, although he had the tendency to fade a bit, but a consistent three-point shot is the main thing keeping Robinson from being a superstar.
  • Consistency & Motor: There were times when Robinson was brilliant, but there were other times when he seemed to be checked out. Robinson had a pretty significant slump in January but snapped out of it down the stretch, playing arguably the best basketball of his career over the final month of the season.

Shining Moment:

Quotable: “He’s one of the most unselfish players we’ve ever been around, that he accepts this role as he’s so talented, yet he’s all about the team all the time.  And we did a little bit of a straw vote with the team.  They were not going to pick the captain this year.  We thought they were very, very young.  But we were going to pick the captain. But we said, Let’s just see what they’re feeling.  And they were right on.  Jon, Jordan and Glenn was the unanimous pick of all the players as well as the coaches.”

Grade: B+

Robinson showed flashes of great basketball this season. He made winning plays and he was more aggressive overall, but it’s impossible to shake the feeling that we never saw his best basketball in a Michigan uniform. He has all of the tools and for whatever reason he was just never able to put everything together consistently as a sophomore.

  • Mat

    Can his DRB rate be explained by the role of the Bielien 4? Perhaps he was told to focus on boxing his guy out and letting Morgan or the guards grab boards. Is it something that is consistent for the positions? I’d be interested in comparing his DRB rate compare to Novak, Sims, etc.

    • mikey_mac

      Your narrative is my gut reaction as well. The best way to tell if he was effective is the team’s DRB% when he’s on the court and off. He played so much, though, that it’s hard to get a great sample size of the latter.

    • gpsimms

      not really. His is lower. Peedi hovered around 17%. Novak was 17% as a Junior, but then it dropped to 12.5% as a senior (still higher than Glenn), and I think the drop is mostly explained by playing more 3 that year due to Smot’s increased playing time at the 4.

  • jakerblue

    video is MAAR’s highlights

  • UMHoopsFan

    I think GRIII pretty much “put everything together” his last 10-12 games. He seemed to get a little discouraged when he realized that he wasn’t going to dominate like he’d hoped and during a couple cold-shooting spells, but by the end he found the sweet spot between being aggressive and taking it to the rack within his limitations and was shooting it well. Not quite the year hoped for, but a very good season.

    • Mattski

      I came on to write something like this–the article is great, but maybe misses the way Glenn came on down the stretch. I also can’t help but think that playing the four played a strong part in the fact that he never fully emerged as a player. . . but may really help him in the NBA, including with prospective teams that look past the numbers to his potential.

  • section13row15

    I’m really not sold on the idea that because he was playing the 4 spot in the offense, he didn’t have as much opportunity to showcase his skills. In Beilein’s first couple years that would have been true because most of the action was created for the wing (3). These last few years we’ve seen a huge change in the offensive approach to where there are 4 equal scorers and a center out there. I remember numerous times sitting in the stands watching GR3 give up the ball on his own accord within the action of the offense when he could have driven right by an inferior athlete. I really think the fact that he didn’t score 20 per game was based solely on his personality and the fact that he’s quiet and such an unselfish guy rather than the position he played on the floor. I think he was a great fit for Michigan in that regard but I don’t think his personality and passiveness will help him be successful at the next level. He’s got some of the measurables, but the mindset needs to be there every night, and I think that’s what Glenn struggles with on the court.

    • Mattski

      Good alternative view. But I really think that shyness is something you can grow out of. . . with confidence, additional strength, etc. A lot of people were saying that THJ and Burke would not work out in the NBA, either. We just always tend to think that the way a player plays now is how he always will. Can’t find it now, but there were some good comments in one of the Detroit papers from his father about how he was constrained in Beilein’s system–not complaining, just saying there was a great deal more to his game. If he had played all season like he did down the stretch, I dare say he’d be a solid first-rounder. And he himself admitted toward mid-season that he had kind of checked out for a while in his disappointment at not getting to the three spot. . .

      • section13row15

        Try playing the 4 in Amaker’s system and then you’ll know what constrained is, Glenn. Beilein gives his 1-4 a lot of freedom compared to other programs. And he couldn’t beat out the other wing players on his own team to earn that spot. It sounds like an excuse to me.

        • Mattski

          This kind of weird harshing on players from armchair fans–always a little creepy to me. We’re actually going to play the scourge with kids like this? Guess that’s what the internet is for, but. . . I hope that you, meantime, were soaring to unparalleled heights in your career, delivering the equivalent of the windmill dunks and oops that Glenn was.

          • gpsimms

            come on, dude. Glenn admitted his attitude wasn’t perfect this year for much of the season. Then his attitude ‘improved’, yet, he’s still saying things like “well the system held me back.”

            Section13 is exactly right that Glenn couldn’t win the 3 spot, and moreover, if he had 3-man skills, he would have been used in PnR sets from the opposite wing. He demonstrated time and again that he didn’t have the ball skills to get by a 4-man off the dribble. How does he think that will improve if he’s guarded by a 3?

            On one hand, I’ll always love Glenn for his time here at Michigan, and the new heights he helped bring Michigan to, but on the other how is it not ok for fans to discuss this type of thing? Especially in the case where the player admitted he was not doing all he could to help the team. IMO, his publicly held opinions open himself up to exactly this criticism.

        • BlueHawaii

          “Couldn’t beat out the other wing players on his own team to earn that spot”? Are you kidding me??? It’s not that he couldn’t beat them out at the 3, it’s that no one else could play the 4 and he HAD TO. McGary’s injury forced him to play the 4, which is NOT what he wanted to do, but he did it for the team, to the best of his ability. I have some gripes with Glenn – like lack of intensity and hustle up and down the court on every single play – but he is an amazing athlete and played where he was needed even though it wasn’t where he wanted to be.

  • mikey_mac

    I’ve said this before in pieces, but GR3’s biggest problems are he can’t shoot 3s and his handle is weak for his size/NBA position. Those both haunted him at times this year. These are not really functions of UM’s offensive system or his position within it. Fix one of those, and he’s a legit NBA rotation piece. Fix both, and he could be a starter. With his work ethic and smarts, I wouldn’t bet against him. I still think he’s got a chance of sneaking into the end of the first round.

  • Wayman Britt

    GR3 was a good player and was the reason UM won a lot of games over the last two years, but his career at UM will always be remembered as “He would have been a really great player if”

  • justin

    I would give gr3 a b- or c+ at best…c would be if he didn’t improve at all from last year. Gr3 fails to make in the first round this year. I would bet a good bit of money on it. Levert plays a different position but will be looked at as having a much better career than gr3 and will be a much better NBA player for several reasons. One being the fact he can create his own shot.

  • jakelam2116

    Agree with everything said here. It’s hard to know how he’ll perform at the next level, but you can’t argue that he wasn’t playing his best basketball the last 10-12 games at Michigan.

  • Jon Sohn

    Immensely underrated player who fit into a system to help Michigan become one of the top teams the past 2 seasons. Without GR3 the Wolverines would not have reached such greatness. Put him on a mid-major where the offense went through him and he would be a clear lottery pick.

  • Kenny

    GRIII is a victim of being the son of the Big Dog, one of the most dominant player in college basketball history. Most of us saw his skills and athleticism and believed that one day he will became the same type of player the big dog used to be, and become disappointment when he settles as a very good sidekick.

    On the other hand, he might have a much easier transition to NBA as he does not need to have a ball in his hand, and be more comfortable being a role player than most college stars.

  • goblueNYC

    The only thing wrong with GR3 is a little tentativeness when trying to run an iso. He’ll figure it out and he’ll be an NBA All-Star.