Thomas Robinson. Damian Lillard can't do this (Getty Images)
You’d probably make the call, too, whether your experience with college hoops either meant watching hours on end of the stuff from Midnight Madness onward or cramming in the days leading up to the NBA draft. Do you take the studly power forward with the square frame from the squarest of NBA breeding schools in Kansas, or the (probably) 5-11 point guard from Weber State? “Weber” as in “Weeb Ewbank,” mind you, and not “Chris Webber.”
Last June, the Sacramento Kings decided to go for Thomas Robinson, out of Kansas, instead of Weber State’s Damian Lillard. Because the team’s only bright spot in a miserable 2011-12 season (one the team’s owners would have probably preferred canceled due to the lockout) came in the form of sprightly rookie guard Isaiah Thomas it made sense. If the team chose Lillard with the fifth overall pick we would have shouted that it would have meant that the franchise’s clueless front office had no clue what it had in Thomas. Then we would have unfolded our arms and written a smarmy column about it.
Lillard, taken one spot later by the Portland Trail Blazers, will probably win this season’s Rookie of the Year award. His Blazers are struggling through a rebuilding year, but the potent guard is averaging 18.4 points and 6.4 assists in nearly 38 minutes per game. At age 22, he’s been able to step right in as a team-leading contributor, while Robinson has struggled. To hear former Kings beat writer and current USA Today NBA maven Sam Amick tell it, the only reason Sacramento drafted Robinson over Lillard last June was not the orthodoxy I previously detailed, but because the team’s ownership was frightened it couldn’t re-sign a player you can’t pick out of a lineup without a scorecard in Thompson to his second contract. From Amick’s report:
Read More »from Sacramento may have passed on drafting Damian Lillard in order to re-sign … Jason Thompson?
According to three people with knowledge of the situation who spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, part of the reason the Kings drafted forward Thomas Robinson fifth overall out of Kansas in June instead of Rookie of the Year frontrunner and Weber State point guard Damian Lillard (who went sixth to Portland) was because of internal doubt about ownership's ability or willingness to pony up for restricted free agent forward Jason Thompson.