Jerome Robinson has a chance to prove himself
The Clippers have yet to play a game at full strength, and Rodney McGruder was the latest injury casualty during the team's Southwest road trip. McGruder doesn't project to be out for too long, but combined with Landry Shamet's absence, there has been an opening in the second unit backcourt.
Based on preseason hype, one would expect Terance Mann to soak up the majority of those minutes. Instead, Doc Rivers has found more time for Jerome Robinson.
Robinson is perhaps unfairly maligned for being the Clippers' other lottery pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, and he even suffered in comparison to Shamet after the trade deadline last year. On top of that, Robinson's developmental timeline doesn't exactly match up with the team's hopes for contention this season.
However, it doesn't really matter if Robinson is ready or not; the Clippers need him now, and it's up to the second-year guard to prove if he is deserving of minutes once the rotation returns to full health.
Robinson has averaged 11.1 minutes per game in 15 appearances this season. Before Shamet's injury, Robinson only played outside of garbage time during Kawhi Leonard's load management games, but the sophomore has seen regular minutes since.
He has scored 52 points in his 166 minutes (about 3.5 per game), but has taken 54 shots to get those points. He is shooting 37% from the field and 35.7% from 3-point range. Those percentages are essentially unchanged pre- and post-Shamet injury.
The Clippers want Robinson to be assertive. Rivers famously always wants his players shooting, and shooting with confidence. The team trusts their offense to create good looks, but the players have to take them in rhythm.
Dating back to last season, that has been the coaching staff's message to Robinson: Be aggressive, look to score, and keep taking your shots. He mostly had those opportunities with the Agua Caliente Clippers a year ago, but the team wants him to translate that same mentality to the big club, like he does below against the Pelicans.
Robinson also needs to convert his catch-and-shoot opportunities. His value over Mann is that he can space the floor around Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell in the bench unit, but he has to knock down those triples in order to continue being guarded.
Thus far, Robinson is 9-of-24 on catch-and-shoot threes, per NBA.com's tracking data, for a 37.5% clip. If he can increase the volume of those jumpers, rather than settling into pull-up twos (3-of-13), that will substantially improve his efficiency.
Robinson is comfortable with the ball in his hands, and those reps will likely prove beneficial down the line, but that isn't his role right now. The Clippers want Robinson to develop as an off-ball player, as Rivers noted when I asked him earlier in November.
Robinson may get a chance at extended minutes tonight as the Clippers host the Washington Wizards, owners of the worst defensive rating in the NBA. When LA played the 29th-ranked defense – the Atlanta Hawks – Robinson had 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting.
After a dispiriting loss to the San Antonio Spurs to end their road trip, the Clippers should welcome the opportunity to face a limited defensive team. This is a prime game for the back of the bench to stretch its legs and show off the team's vaunted depth.