According to a report from Adrian Wojnarowski, the Houston Rockets plan to trade Thomas Robinson in an attempt to eliminate his $3.52 million salary in order to free sufficient cap space to offer a max contract to a free agent.
The Rockets are targeting teams with sufficient cap space to absorb Robinson’s contrac and appear to expect minimal compensation. The Golden State Warriors, however, are already over the salary cap and thus, given the lack of a large enough trade exception, could not acquire Robinson without sending out near-equivalent salary.
Because of this, to acquire Robinson, the Warriors would need to negotiate a three-team deal involving a team with the needed cap space. Such a deal would likely necessitate the Warriors to surrender assets greater than those demanded by Houston from teams who can swallow Robinson’s contract directly.
If the Warriors do acquire Robinson, it would reflect on the front office’s perception of the Warriors’ short and long-term future. Robinson, the 5th overall pick in the 2012 draft, struggled last season, averaging only 15.9 minutes per game in 51 games with the Sacramento Kings and 13 minutes in 19 games with the Rockets. Robinson was very inefficient offensively, with a true shooting percentage of only 45.1 percent and a very high turnover percentage of 19.5 percent (meaning he committed a turnover on 19.5 out of 100 possessions used).
Though he struggled offensively and was ineffective defensively, Robinson was a very strong rebounder. He rebounded 17.7 percent of total rebounding opportunities while he was on the court, including 13.9 percent of available offensive rebound opportunities, compared to David Lee’s 8.5 percent.
Robinson is an explosive athlete and was an adept finisher in college, suggesting he would be a very effective pick-and-roll big man in the NBA. While he struggled in the pick-and-roll as a rookie, Robinson still has the potential to be a very good NBA player. Acquiring Robinson could prevent the Warriors from re-signing Carl Landry or acquiring other backup big men. Robinson may not be the best option for next season, but he still has potential to be a very good player in the long-term. In pursuing Robinson, the Warriors would be showing a telling commitment to long-term success.
As a backup on the Warriors, Robinson could potentially learn valuable offensive skills from Lee. Robinson struggled to make basic reads after the catch on the pick-and-roll. Watching Lee’s generally good offensive recognition could help mold Robinson into a very affective NBA player. Though Festus Ezeli is expected to miss the beginning of the regualr season, he and Robinson would potentially form a complementary big man pairing, though they may struggle with spacing issues.
In the highly unlikely event that the Warriors choose to trade Lee, Robinson presents a cheap, high-upside alternative. Acquiring Thomas Robinson may not be simple, but he could potentially be a valuable piece of the Warriors’ future.