Devin Robinson's announcement that he would test the waters of the 2016 NBA Draft should not have come as a major surprise late Monday. Robinson is a skilled, tall small forward, and if he can show he is a consistent threat from the perimeter, he could be an NBA player. And there's some faith in NBA scouting circles that he will do all that: That's why DraftExpress projects Robinson as the No. 31 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
But Robinson's not declaring for next year's draft, just this year's — and that's why fan derision might drown out the sensible arguments that he's making the right decision.
This January, in response to years of criticism that too many underclassmen were leaving school early for the NBA Draft, the NCAA pushed back its deadline for players to remove their names from consideration for the NBA Draft to 10 days after the end of the NBA Scouting Combine, which will be May 25 in 2016.
Not every Draft-eligible player gets invited to the NBA Scouting Combine, but players can still work out for NBA teams individually — or, in the case of Kentucky's full team of NBA Draft "entrants", might actually get the mountain to Labissiere. Robinson probably won't be invited to the Scouting Combine, but I imagine he could get himself in front of a handful of teams.
Those teams are probably going to tell him that he's not ready for the NBA — because, well, he's not. That three-point shot that needs to be consistent has only gone in 30.3 percent of the time during Robinson's Gators career, and his surprising 47.8 percent shooting during conference play this year was over just 46 shots. Robinson's too skinny to play effective man defense at the NBA level, and isn't a good enough defender off the ball to make up for it. Extra bulk would also help him improve as a rebounder, though his boarding — and the athleticism that permits it — is a bright spot of his game right now.
Still, Robinson is old for his grade, already 21 after a birthday in March. He'll be 22 by the 2017 NBA Draft, and the recent history of 22- and 23-year-olds getting drafted — just four players 22 or older were selected in the 2015 NBA Draft's first round — suggests that he may be up against a wall when it comes to making himself an appealing enough prospect to counter the hard truth that he won't be seen as a player young enough to continue improving. If he can impress a team enough to get his foot in the door now, his decision to test the waters will have been a good one; if he finds out he has a legitimate shot at a second-round selection this year, then it's probably in his best interests to leave Florida.
But "declaring for the Draft" does not mean that he will leave or be drafted, not yet. And while Florida fans will have to sweat out Robinson's decision, they're worried about a team they like rooting for — Robinson, meanwhile, is worried about his career and life. Here's hoping he gets enough information to make the best decision possible.
Gators to play Duke in 2016 Jimmy V Classic
As first reported by sentient Twitter bot Jon Rothstein on Tuesday, Florida will play Duke in the ESPN-produced 2016 Jimmy V Classic this fall. Arizona State and Purdue will square off in the other game of the one-day doubleheader.
The 2015 Jimmy V Classic pitted Virginia against West Virginia and Maryland against UConn, and produced one Elite Eight team, one Sweet Sixteen team, and two other NCAA Tournament participants, so the event has a history of matching top teams. Neither Florida nor Arizona State made the NCAA Tournament in 2016, but ESPN likely has enough faith in the coaches at both schools — Mike White at UF, and Bobby Hurley at Arizona State — to think that they'll produce competitive games with Duke and Purdue.
Florida, though, appears to be the big winner of this scheduling. Duke is adding an incredible recruiting class, and keeping Grayson Allen; it should be no worse than the nation's No. 2 team in preseason polls this fall, and could well be No. 1 ahead of Kentucky by the time the Gators meet the Blue Devils. That makes for a tall test for White and his charges, sure, but non-conference games against elite teams, especially away from home, are win-win scenarios: Either Florida pulls an upset and gets a bulletproof first line on its NCAA Tournament résumé, or it loses to a great team and still gets a substantial RPI boost.
And while there's always a chance that things go totally awry for a team larded with as much talent as Duke will have next year (see Kentucky's 2012-13 squad), Mike Krzyzewski schedules well enough and the ACC is rugged enough that there's virtually no chance of Duke on Florida's schedule being a net negative for the Gators.
Florida's going to have one of the toughest schedules in the nation in 2016-17 by virtue of a non-conference slate spent at least mostly away from Gainesville. (I have a sneaking suspicion the Gators might host a Big 12-SEC Challenge game in January, and imagine that they might get a couple non-con games in between the likely late December opening of the O'Dome and the beginning of SEC play.) And rigor is almost always good in basketball scheduling.
Walker's departure lightens Florida scholarship chart
You may recall last week's news that DeVon Walker would transfer. Combined with Robinson's potential departure, that helps open up some room for the Gators in terms of scholarships.
Florida Gators Projected Basketball Scholarships
|Schuyler Rimmer (walk-on)
Last year, when I wrote about Florida's logjam in April, it seemed crystal clear that at least one piece of attrition was coming. There were actually three (player) departures, though: Eli Carter transferred to Boston College, Chris Walker left for the NBA Draft (or, well, the D-League), and Noah Dickerson decommitted from Florida after Billy Donovan left the Gators for the Oklahoma City Thunder, eventually ending up with Washington.
While that only opened up two spaces on the 13-deep scholarship roster, because it was overstuffed as it was, the attrition gave Mike White room to add Justin Leon, whom he had signed at Louisiana Tech, as a late addition to the Gators' 2015 recruiting class, and could have allowed Florida to put walk-on Schuyler Rimmer on scholarship. (I'd heard conflicting things on whether Rimmer was on scholarship, and have reached out to Florida for clarification.)
Going forward, though, the expected departures of Finney-Smith and Murphy (who could theoretically petition the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility, but I doubt will) and the unsurprising departure of Walker gives the Gators a whole lot of room to work with. Two free spots (pending Rimmer's status) on the 2016-17 roster are available for transfers or — especially — graduate transfers, and Florida could fill them with one-year players and still sign a four-man recruiting class for 2017-18 by adding three more names to Shai Alexander's on that list.
Of course, with Robinson already itching for and inching toward a pro career, and John Egbunu having just about everything necessary for a pro career except two post moves and a bit more defensive discipline, there could be even more spots available before eligibilities are exhausted. And I wouldn't be stunned to see more attrition from the current roster in the form of transfers, though I do think Walker was far and away the Gators' most likely transfer candidate.
The point is this: White is going to have significant flexibility to make the Gators in his image, as soon as this offseason. And while his lightly-regarded recruiting has been slammed by Florida fans used to Donovan's ability to land elite players with some regularity, the high-profile busts on Donovan's record should be a reminder that there are multiple roads to both success and failure in college hoops.
Bassett tweets highlight film, has great hashtag taste
Finally, I'd be remiss not to note that Florida signee Dontay Bassett tweeted a highlight film with a Pusha T soundtrack and the hashtag #keepsleeping affixed to it. I don't think there has ever been a more Alligator Army tweet.