After one of the top draft classes in the NBA last summer, the Los Angeles Lakers could already be working hard to do the same this summer, conspiring with Mitchell Robinson’s agent to steal the young center with the #25 pick.
Robinson was the top center coming out of high school in 2017 but ended up dropping out of Western Kentucky and opting to train for the 2018 NBA Draft on his own, a controversial, unprecedented move by a one-and-done player. Working out with former NBA player and assistant coach Morlon Wiley in Dallas, Robinson appears to have diligently worked on his craft as ESPN draft guru Jonathan Givony raved about watching him workout in February 2018:
“With his potential as a rim-running, pick-and-roll-setting and lob-catching rim protector/offensive rebounder, Robinson is exactly what NBA teams are actively scouring the globe for at the center position, both physically and from a skill set perspective. He covers ground exceptionally, plays quick off his feet and has excellent hands. He has proved to be one of the most devastating shot-blockers and offensive rebounders in our database of top-shelf NBA draft picks.”
While Robinson projects as an elite modern defensive center who can protect the rim and defend in space out to the 3-point line, his offensive upside is not limited to just lobs, dunks, and offensive rebounds. While Robinson only shot 28% on 137 attempted threes his senior year at Chalmette High School, he has been working hard to improve his 3-point shooting and extend his range, looking to transform himself into the prototype modern two-way NBA center.
“We watched him knock down quite a few jump shots over the course of a 90-minute workout this week, both with his feet set and off the dribble — sometimes from well beyond the 3-point line, which is not something he has ever been able to demonstrate in 5-on-5 games. In many ways, Robinson is a blank canvas waiting for professional strength and conditioning and skill-development coaches — and simply forced to bide his time until then.”
At 7' 1" with a 7' 4" wingspan, Robinson could be the ideal switch and shoot center the Los Angeles Lakers need to anchor their defense and offense. Still only 20-years old, Robinson is perfect fit for the Lakers’ talented young core that already boasts budding stars in point guard Lonzo Ball and forwards Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma. If the Lakers can find a way to draft him, Mitchell Robinson could have a shot to become the next great Lakers center.
On May 2, 2018, Mitchell Robinson announced he had signed with veteran NBA agent Raymond Brothers of IAM Sports and Entertainment, who is also the agent for NBA players Markelle Fultz, Zack Randolph, and Tony Allen. Brothers said then that Robinson was now 7' 2" and “easily a top 3 talent.” Raymond is known to be an agent who does a good job managing players with difficult family advisors like Robinson’s godfather Shammond Williams.
On May 16, 2018, Givony Tweeted Robinson was withdrawing from all NBA Combine activities including team interviews and medical exams. Referring to Robinson’s decision, Givony said it was “unclear if he has a promise, or if he is simply preferring to avoid conducting interviews.” By the end of the day, multiple sources had confirmed the Lakers’ rumors and multiple mock drafts on the Internet had responded predicting Robinson to be the Lakers selection.
Nobody knows at this time whether the rumors about the Lakers are true or whether Robinson’s withdrawal from combine activities would extend to his not giving other NBA teams private workouts before the draft on June 21st. When asked if Robinson still planned to do individual team workouts, his trainer Marcell Scott texted back “Yes, he will,” declining further comment. There has been no other confirmation from Raymond Brothers on this issue.
The Lakers would obviously prefer that Robinson shut down everything like Kyle Kuzma did last summer. While his talent is no secret, questions about his decision to leave Western Kentucky and his decision to train by himself rather than playing overseas plus concerns that nobody has seen him play since high school make it highly unlikely any NBA team would risk a first round pick without an opportunity to personally interview and privately work him out.
That’s a strategy that could very well work because Robinson has become the Mystery Man of this draft, having not been seen on the court since the Jordan Brand Classic in Brooklyn in April 2017. NBA scouts were also not allowed to evaluate him in non-sanctioned practice or game settings until end of April. If the rumors are true, the Lakers must have scheduled a secret private workout with Robinson sometime in early May that led them to give him a promise.
So far, there has been zero news about Robinson working out for any NBA team, including the Lakers. Because it’s very early in the evaluation process, it’s possible the Lakers are the only team that worked Robinson out, which could give them an opportunity, with Brothers help, to steal him at #25. If the rumors are true and the Lakers promised Robinson they will draft him, then they need to do everything they can to make sure he is there at #25.
That means convincing Raymond Brothers that joining the Lakers would give Mitchell Robinson the best possible opportunity for a storied NBA career and a chance to see his jersey hung in the rafters at Staples Center alongside those of great Lakers centers like George Mikan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, and Wilt Chamberlain. The Lakers need Raymond Brothers to shut down Robinson and not allow another team to interview or work him out.
That won’t guarantee that a team won’t take a gamble and select Robinson before the Lakers have a chance at #25 but it would make that a long shot. The Lakers would also be wise to explore the costs of trading up if they hear rumors that another team might and pick Robinson. If Mitchell Robinson could be the next great Lakers center, it might make sense for the Lakers to move up to make absolutely sure they draft him and eliminate all risks.
While most mock drafts have Robinson going to the Lakers at #25, there were two mock drafts picking him earlier. NBADraft.net had Robinson going to Phoenix at #16 while Tankathon.com had him going to Atlanta at #19. Fortunately for the Lakers, the Suns and Hawks are likely to have chosen a big man with their earlier #1 or #3 picks. Another possible team that might draft Robinson would be the Mavs, who also are likely to pick a center #5.
The opportunity to play for the big market Los Angeles Lakers is exactly the opportunity Raymond Brothers should be seeking for his client. Not only do the Lakers have an immediate need for a center, it’s also the only position for which they do not already have a budding star. While some believe Robinson would need a year in the G-League before contributing, other analysts believe he could step right in and contribute from day one with his unique skill set.
Personally, I think Mitchell Robinson could easily fill the role as our backup center next season. There’s a good chance the Lakers will either go small with Julius Randle at center or re-sign Brook Lopez to a 1-year deal with Thomas Bryant likely being the third center and Ivica Zubac being cut or traded. If the Lakers draft Robinson, bringing back Lopez to mentor him would be smart. Mitchell Robinson could actually be the athletic version of Brook Lopez.
Meanwhile, the Lakers continue to interview and workout draft prospects. Hopefully, their rumored promise to Mitchell Robinson will become old news and the Lakers will once again pull off the steal of the draft come June 21st.