Can Glenn Robinson III Become an Effective Scoring Option for Michigan?Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 23rd, 2013
Deepak is a columnist for the RTC Big Ten microsite. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.
NBA scouts salivate over Glenn Robinson III, a 6’6″ small forward who has a good jumper with great range and possesses the athletic ability to bring down the house with thunderous dunks. He could have been a top-20 pick in the NBA Draft last year, but he instead decided to come back for another season to polish his offensive skills. Robinson, along with his fellow sophomores, Mitch McGary and Nik Stauskas, will control John Beilein’s offense this season, but can he do it efficiently? We know about his athleticism and diverse offensive skill set, as shown in this clip, but can he handle the defensive pressure as the primary scoring option?
Robinson had the luxury of being the fourth and sometimes the fifth scoring option as Michigan marched towards the championship game last season. He parked himself in the corners and was the recipient of kick-out passes when Trey Burke broke his defender down off the pick-and-roll to penetrate the paint. Without Burke’s ability to penetrate this season, Robinson may not have as many easy looks on the perimeter unless he consistently moves into open space in Beilein’s half-court sets. He can still use his jumper to his advantage, but he will have to establish his game around the basket in order to be more effective this season. There is a small probability that he could end up mimicking Tim Hardaway’s sophomore campaign with regard to long-range shooting. Hardaway shot a dismal 28 percent on 187 attempts from beyond the arc last season. Robinson’s 32 percent shooting from beyond the arc by contrast was respectable, but that statistic needs to be around 38 to 40 percent this year, otherwise it could hurt the Wolverines’ offensive rhythm. With proper shot selection, Robinson can be a powerful stretch-four in the league because few Big Ten forwards have the size and quickness to match up with him on the perimeter.
Fast break opportunities were abundant last season as Burke and Hardaway could handle the ball in the open floor. Without Burke, Beilein’s offense should still be very quick as long as McGary asserts himself as a rebounding force on the defensive end. By swallowing most boards, he can kick it out to multiple ball-handlers such as Stauskas, Caris Lavert or incoming freshman Derrick Walton. The guards will have to find Robinson on the wing during transition. Rather than relying on the long-range shot, Robinson ought to pick up easier baskets in transition, which will boost his efficiency. Offensive rebounding is another area where he can make himself useful because most defenses will focus on McGary off of pick-and-roll action around the paint. In the clip linked above, you will notice Robinson cutting on the baseline to pick up easy baskets because the defense doubled-teamed McGary or Burke off the picks. It is likely that Beilein will continue these sets with McGary and use Stauskas instead of Burke, which should leave the offensive glass open for Robinson on the weak side. Last season, Robinson averaged 5.4 rebounds per game – a statistic that should improve this year if the Wolverines hope to make another run at the Final Four.
During the second half of the Big Ten season, Robinson’s game became too predictable for opposing defenses, which led to his slump. He averaged only 6.4 points per game in Michigan’s seven Big Ten losses. He appeared flat-footed on most of his three-point attempts because he wasn’t moving around the perimeter enough and once the opposition limited fast break opportunities, he couldn’t find another way to pick up a few easy buckets. The lethargic three-point attempts could lead to another inefficient season, but he will have to assert himself in the mid-range area to avoid such a slump. Beilein is very crafty with his offensive sets and will call specific plays for Robinson to get going. Whether they are pick-and-rolls or pin-downs in the mid-range, the key to Robinson’s offense this year will be to trust the offensive talent around him. He can simply overpower smaller forwards during the non-conference season, but against Big Ten competition, he needs to make sure not to push the envelope too much. And if he can do that, we will see a lot of his smooth touch around the perimeter and thunderous dunks around the basket as the Wolverines contend for another Big Ten title.