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Thomas Robinson: a strange odyssey through the NBA

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Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Thomas Robinson has been an enigma ever since he was drafted fifth overall by the Kings in the 2012 NBA Draft. Coming off his junior year at Kansas where he averaged 17.7 ppg and 11.9 rpg, it seemed like the 6'10" Robinson would be a cornerstone of the Sacramento rebuilding project.  His life story was compelling as well.

Not even three years later, Robinson is set to join his fifth team after agreeing to sign a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets.

During Robinson's rookie season with Sacramento, the power forward was stuck behind fellow first round picks DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson in the rotation.  With limited minutes, Robinson was unable to develop and was unceremoniously traded to the Houston Rockets after playing only 51 games for Sacramento.  After finishing the season with Houston, Robinson was quickly dealt again, this time to the Portland Trail Blazers, flipped for the rights to Kostas Papanikolaou, Marko Todorovic and two second round draft picks.

Portland is where Robinson has found his most success during his short and well-traveled career but even there he had little impact.  He averaged 4.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg in 12.5 mpg in 70 games without a single start during the 2013-14 season.  He played relatively well but once again was unable to get consistent playing time behind an All-Star.  Portland had incredible luck when it came to health that year.  The five starters missed a combined 13 games all year with LaMarcus Aldridge missing all 13 (Dorell Wright started in place of Aldridge).

Robinson again found himself in a crowded frontcourt this season after Portland added Chris Kaman.  Through the first 25 games this year, Robinson played in only 10 contests and not because of injury, but due to DNP-CD's.  Then, on December 17, he got the opportunity to make his first career start, ironically replacing the injured Robin Lopez.  In 29 minutes, Robinson scored 15 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and finally showed his first-round potential.

Here are some highlights from that game:

Despite that game, Robinson still received inconsistent minutes and his play was solid, but still underwhelming.  With a stacked frontcourt and needs elsewhere, Portland became the third team in three years to find Robinson expendable as they traded him to the Denver Nuggets for Arron Afflalo and Alonzo Gee.  He was promptly waived by Denver and now has found himself with Brooklyn.

With his fifth team in three seasons, Robinson seems like a bust but it's worth reminding that he's still only 23-years-old, younger than both Mason Plumlee and Cory Jefferson.  Robinson is big and boasts above-average quickness and athleticism for his size.  At the Pre-Draft Combine he had a max vertical of 35.5" to go with his 7'3.35" wingspan. He also finished first among the bigs tested. A rare physical specimen. But he's far from perfect. His per 36 number numbers for personals (4.8) and turnovers (4.0) are too high for a PF and his free throw percentage (43.8%) too low.

Still with Kevin Garnett being dealt and Mirza Teletovic out for the year, the Nets have a hole at the four and can certainly give Robinson the consistent minutes he's yet to see during his career. The question of course is whether he didn't get the minutes because the player(s) ahead of him were better or he just wasn't that good. If the Nets give Robinson the minutes that he desperately needs to develop, the would-be bust could prove his first-round mettle.