Stanley Robinson Faces Uphill Battle to Make the Orlando Magic's Roster

While fans around these parts met the Orlando Magic's selection of project center Daniel Orton in June's draft with skepticism or indifference, they greeted the addition of combo forward Stanley Robinson warmly. Robinson, a four-year senior at Connecticut, uses his outstanding athleticism to make solid plays on both ends of the floor. His body and iffy jump shot drew comparisons to Magic forward Matt Barnes, who's due to announce his new team any day now as he leaves the Magic in free-agency. I'm not the only person who thought the Magic drafted Robinson as Barnes insurance, so to speak. Mark Deeks, whom you might know better as ShamSports, had the following to say in Part Two of his massive, must-read draft diary:

....And now they can let Matt Barnes walk.

[....] Robinson runs the court, rebounds, dunks, blocks, can play terrific and versatile perimeter defense, and post-up a touch. He is not much of a ballhandler, shooter or creator, but even though those skills are kind of fundamental, you can easily contribute without having them. And as Matt Barnes himself has proved, jumpshots can always be learnt.

But since Draft Night, that perception looks decidedly less accurate; that's not me bagging on Sham, by the way. He said what a lot of NBA observers believed. Robinson was never a lock to make the Magic's roster, as he is a second-round pick and as such not guaranteed a contract, yet now the odds are stacked against him.

After the jump, a quick look at his Orlando Pro Summer League game log, and a few reasons why he's going to have to fight for a roster spot this fall.

Date Result Mins Pts Rebs Asts Stls Blks FGs FTs
5 July L, 86-77 19 4 7 2 0 0 1/4 2/2
6 July L, 78-73 15 4 3 1 1 1 2/5 0/0
7 July L, 94-91 11 2 3 0 0 1 1/1 0/0
8 July L, 80-78 12 4 3 0 2 2 2/2 0/0
9 July W, 80-77 25 13 10 0 0 0 5/10 3/7
TOTALS 82 27 26 3 3 4 11/22 5/9
AVERAGES 16.4 5.4 5.2 0.6 0.6 0.8 50.0% 55.6%

His Summer-League performance jibes with his college profile: he's a guy who relies on his remarkable athleticism to make an impact, which he did on this gorgeous windmill dunk. But he often struggled to do that in Summer League, rarely getting touches. During Summer-League play, I spoke to a source familiar with the Magic's thinking who said that Robinson is "deficient" in every part of the game that doesn't involve athleticism, which he said would make it "tough" to play successfully under Magic coach Stan Van Gundy.

There's also the issue of fit. Robinson would thrive in an open-court system which maximizes his gifts, as he did at Connecticut, where transition opportunities accounted for nearly one-fifth of his possession usage during his senior year, and he produced 1.275 points per possession on 71.2% shooting, according to Synergy Sports Technology. But Orlando isn't a running team. Synergy shows that the Magic ranked 23rd in transition-generated offense last season, and Tom Haberstroh of HoopData tells me the league average is 12.5%.

Now, not to be too reductive, but if Robinson's best asset is his ability to get out in transition, but the Magic do that only a little more than once every 10 trips, what is he to do for the other nine possessions? He can't spread the floor or create his own shot. My guess? Float on the weak side, have no defender within 8 feet of him, maybe crash the offensive glass when someone else shoots. In other words, nothing particularly useful for a team that plays the way Orlando does.

What's more, when I asked GM Otis Smith about Robinson last week, he said Robinson will have to really impress him in training camp in order to earn a roster spot:

He's going to come into camp and have an opportunity to make our team, force me to carry 14 guys, is what I'd like for him to do. We like to go in with the idea we're going to carry 13, but it's not uncommon for us to add a 14th guy.

To do that, I believe he'll have to add something to his offensive game--a three-pointer would be a nice place to start--and hone his off-ball defense. Barnes went through seven teams through his first seven pro seasons, and will make it eight this summer, assuming he doesn't revisit one of his previous stops. Training camp is Robinson's best hope to avoid a nomadic NBA existence such as Barnes'. He has potential to carve out a role as a situational defender in this league. But with Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus, Quentin Richardson, and J.J. Redick, the Magic are already four deep at the wing positions--five deep, if you believe Rashard Lewis can still capably play small forward, about which I have my doubts--and a raw athlete with poor offensive skills like Robinson doesn't figure to be featured prominently in a championship-caliber team's plans for too long.

But he will have a chance, come September. Let's see what he does with it.

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