Any debate on whether or not Jerome Robinson made the right choice forgoing his senior year and going pro was quickly put to bed last Thursday night. After shooting up the draft boards, he was selected with the 13th overall pick by the Los Angeles Clippers. In the process, Robinson became the highest drafted Eagle since John Bagley was selected 12th overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1982 and the first ever BC lottery selection.
It is easy for BC fans to explain why Robinson went so high: proven scorer and led the ACC in points-per-game, great on-and-off ball, proven leader, and committed to the game (heck, even I thought about leaving BC after that disastrous 2015 campaign). I mean just watch his highlights:
Clipper fans, however, might be harder pressed to understand why their team needs another combo guard (though one less now that Austin Rivers has departed for Washington). Nonetheless Jerry West, the Logo himself, was the mind behind this pick. His history of success as a front office consultant/savior for the Lakers and Warriors has earned him the benefit of the doubt: Robinson is clearly part of the plan. Now we just need to try and figure out what that plan is.
The first is to recognize that Robinson is likely part of a youth movement for the Clippers. Last year the team was the seventh oldest in the NBA (average age of 27.5) and finished 42-40. They are caught in that awkward limbo of mediocrity, too good to tank for a top-5 pick and not good enough to make the playoffs in the brutal Western conference. He and fellow draft pick Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are aiming to be the “backcourt of the future” and the LA Times reports that “the Clippers will not rush either Gilgeous-Alexander or Robinson, preferring to let the pair develop in a natural progression.” It seems unlikely that Robinson will win significant minutes to start the year, and winning a starting role will take some further patience.
That’s okay, because there is a huge amount of competition at the guard positions and some very established personnel. The Clippers have a total of eight guards on their roster, not including either of their draft picks. As talented as Jerome is, it is hard to see him unseating the current rotation of Patrick Beverley, reigning 6th-man-of-the-year Lou Williams, and Milos Teodosic by the start of the season.
Fortunately, many of those players will be moving on in the near future. Rivers is gone. Beverley and Teodosic become free agents after this year. Williams is a great bench scorer, but he will be 33 and potentially an enticing trade piece if the Clippers are not contending soon. And that assumes that any of those players finish out their contract. The Clippers are a team in the midst of a serious shakeup. After sending off Chris Paul last summer, West has already sent away Rivers for Marcin Gortat and likely is not done. Rivers’ departure, and whoever follows, will open up room for Robinson to get minutes and contribute. Chaos on the Clippers just means more opportunity for Jerome.
Head Coach Doc Rivers has also shown more of an inclination to play young players in the past few years. Oft maligned for ignoring youth, he nearly dragged a team of G-Leaguers and young guns to a playoff spot. He gave Tyrone Wallace (Mr. Irrelevant, 2016) and Teodosic (rookie) each more than 25 mpg, as well as significant bench minutes to Sindarius Thornwell and 27-year-old rookie CJ Williams. Doc will play his young guys this year to see what they can contribute (and potentially bottom out for a high lottery pick. The acquisition of Gortat likely means LAC’s best player, Deandre Jordan, is no longer part of the picture. It is hard to see a championship contender in the current core).
The future looks promising for Robinson, and BC fans can be confident that he can secure a spot in the future of the Clippers. He will live up to Jerry West’s expectations; as a Warriors fan, I know that one has to trust “the Logo.”
contract information taken from sportrac.com