If you need a good read on the Wizards' lack of depth in recent years at shooting guard, you could start with the minutes per game Bradley Beal has played. Last season, he led the NBA with 36.9 minutes per game. This year, he is fifth.
Though Beal has ditched the injury-prone label that followed him early in his career, ideally he would have a little more help. Ideally, some nights he wouldn't need to do as much.
But finding a capable and consistent back-up for him has been a quixotic quest for the Wizards, one that has chewed through talented players like Austin Rivers, Jordan McRae and Jodie Meeks. Marcus Thornton and Gary Neal would be examples of their biggest flops.
Not since Garrett Temple, who left in 2016, have the Wizards had a guy behind Beal who could truly be relied on. But in Jerome Robinson, they may have some hope in that regard, and that potential was on display Friday evening in the Wizards' loss to the Phoenix Suns.
Robinson is being presented the best opportunity of his NBA career so far to demonstrate his worth. He was the 13th overall pick just two years ago, but began his NBA days by backing up veteran Lou Williams and then All-Stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in Los Angeles. Landry Shamet's emergence also helped push him to the side.
He then got traded to Washington in February, only to be placed behind Beal, one of the best shooting guards in the game. Robinson again had to take a seat and wait his turn.
But in Orlando, with Beal having opted out, Robinson doesn't have to look over his shoulder anymore. It was just one game, but against the Suns he thrived with 20 points (one off his career-high) including 4-for-6 from three-point range.
"Shooters shoot. I was open, so I shot it," Robinson said.
so Jerome Robinson is going off pic.twitter.com/PE99eN6wYx
— NBCSports Washington (@NBCSWashington) July 31, 2020
Most of Robinson's commentary postgame was matter-of-fact. He didn't seem ready to take this as any personal victory amidst a defeat for his team. And he also knows full well that one game against a team like the Suns doesn't mean he has made it to where he wants to go.
But Robinson certainly passed the initial test he was given on Friday and that included time guarding Suns star guard Devin Booker. Robinson had some issues defending without fouling, but also mixed in some moments of brilliance where he showed his potential to be a physical perimeter pest.
"When you're guarding a high-level player, you have to be locked in every time," head coach Scott Brooks said. "I thought a couple times he got beat. He needs to be really locked in to stop [Booker]."
Brooks, though, raved about the rest of Robinson's game and how the lessons he and his coaching staff have offered him are starting to be realized on the court.
"I'm happy for him. Offensively, he played a little bit of the right pace. He has some good speed, some ball-handling ability. He can make some passes," Brooks said.
"He wasn't just trying to make something happen every time he touched the ball. He let the game come to him and that's what we need. That's what Bradley does so well. He lets the game come to him and he still gets 30. Totally different players, but that type of mentality, that's what we want Jerome to establish."
For Robinson, who has only played a total of 89 NBA games, Friday was another baby step towards finding a long-term role in the NBA. What he needs to do in Orlando is find what works for him in a larger sample size and then apply that to what will be fewer minutes next year with Beal back in the mix.
But if he can achieve that balance and maximize opportunities, both big and small, he could give the Wizards what they have been seeking for years.
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Jerome Robinson takes step towards solving years-long problem for Wizards originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington