Fresh off their 2022 PBA Philippine Cup championship, the San Miguel Beermen have enlisted the services of NBA veteran Thomas Robinson for the upcoming Commissioner’s Cup in their bid for a second consecutive title.
The height limit for imports in this upcoming conference is 6’10 which is the 31-year-old forward’s listed height.
Robinson, the fifth overall selection of the Sacramento Kings in the 2012 NBA Draft, will own the distinction of being the second highest NBA pick to ever suit up in the PBA. The only other player drafted ahead of him is Dennis Hopson who was the third overall pick in the 1987 NBA Draft by the New Jersey Nets and played briefly for the Purefoods Corned Beef Cowboys in 1996.
The five-year NBA veteran Robinson never lived up to his billing as a lottery pick and suited up for six different franchises during his stay in the league. He was hastily traded by the Kings midway through his disappointing rookie season in a swap of role players with the Houston Rockets that started his journeyman ways.
His best stint in the NBA came during the second half of the ‘14-’15 season. The Portland Trail Blazers traded Robinson to the Denver Nuggets who subsequently waived him. This paved the way for the tanking Philadelphia 76ers to claim him off waivers.
Over his 22 games with the “Trust the Process” Sixers, Robinson averaged 8.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists, and 0.7 steals per game. He went on to play two more seasons, one each with the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers, before venturing out to various professional leagues around the world.
While Robinson ultimately fell short of expectations in the NBA, there is a case to be made that he was just caught in an awkward transition between two eras. While he never developed a reliable jump shot, he is a strong and athletic finisher around the basket with a strong sense for rebounding the ball.
If he was drafted even just a few years earlier, he would have had an easier time finding his niche as a hard nosed power forward in the vein of Charles Oakley. Meanwhile, he would have been a useful back-up center if he was drafted in this modern era that puts a premium on athletic rim runners who stay within their role.
Now that he is with San Miguel, Robinson will not have to worry about his fit given that “pace and space” is still a rather novel concept in the PBA. Playing two traditional big men is still the norm in the Philippines and he should seamlessly slot in next to six-time PBA Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo. Fajardo is used to sharing the paint with players such as Mo Tautuaa, Rodney Brondial, and Vic Manuel whom head coach Leo Austria often deploys next to him.
Robinson is a clear upgrade over these players and the fact that his skill set does not require him to be ball dominant will help this transition. He will be challenged by several NBA veterans this conference though as most teams have brought in imports with similar experience.
The TNT Tropang Giga, their rivals in the most recent Philippine Cup Finals, will be reinforced by the 6’8 forward Cameron Oliver who played six games in the NBA with the Houston Rockets and Atlanta Hawks. Furthermore, the guest team Bay Area Dragons from Hong Kong will be parading five-year NBA veteran Andrew Nicholson.
Four other players with NBA experience will be playing as well with Johnny O’Bryant (Merlaco Bolts), Daniel Ochefu (Rain or Shine Elasto Painters), Quincy Miller (Converge FiberXers), and 2009 14th overall pick Earl Clark (NLEX Road Warriors) all having played a few years each in the league.
The Beermen will have their hands full and the path to another title will not be easy, but Robinson is more than capable of putting them on his shoulders. He should also have more than enough motivation to prove that he is the best among this talented crop of imports, especially as the highest draft pick in this group.