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Q&A With Tom Ziller: Breaking Down Thomas Robinson With Sacramento Kings

SB Nation's Tom Ziller breaks down expectations for Thomas Robinson in his first year with the Sacramento Kings.

July 18, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Sacramento Kings forward Thomas Robinson (0) looks to the basket during the first half of the game against the Toronto Raptors at the Thomas & Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
July 18, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Sacramento Kings forward Thomas Robinson (0) looks to the basket during the first half of the game against the Toronto Raptors at the Thomas & Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

The Kansas Jayhawks rank among the elite level programs in college basketball and have for the last several years. There's a consistent pipeline of talent coming through Lawrence seeking a national title while in school and many use it as a great platform for their NBA dreams as well. Yet perhaps no single player in recent years has the ceiling that Thomas Robinson has as he begins his Sacramento Kings career next month.

Robinson broke out in a major way last year after standing in the shadows of the Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff. Head coach Bill Self pushed the power forward to improve his game and become the team's leader, and that's exactly what happened on the way to the national championship game, where the Jayhawks lost to the Kentucky Wildcats.

The end result was an incredible run for a depleted Kansas team, the runner-up as National Player of the Year (to Anthony Davis) and a top five NBA Draft slot to the Kings.

So just what should Kansas fans expect of Robinson's first year? We recently spoke with NBA Sport Editor Tom Ziller of SB Nation, who also runs Sactown Royalty, the SB Nation Kings blog, to discuss his pro potential and how he fits in with his new franchise.

SBNKC: Can you describe the initial feeling when the Kings landed Thomas Robinson? Was that a player the team wanted all along or was it a Plan B of some kind?

Tom Ziller: I think that the Kings were really happy that Thomas Robinson fell to No. 5. I was certainly thrilled. Sacramento has had awful luck in the lottery itself, but in most years (2011 being the exception) good, high-rated players end up falling to the Kings' pick, including Tyreke Evans in 2009 and DeMarcus Cousins in 2010.

Landing Robinson felt like a return to that trend. He'd been higher than No. 5 on most draft boards (including our own community draft board, where he was No. 3).

What about the fan base? Was that a player they wanted?

As noted, Robinson was No. 3 on our community draft board, behind only Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. There might have been legitimate fan revolt if the Kings picked Dion Waiters or some of the other names tossed around.

How does Robinson fit, in your opinion, alongside Cousins in the frontcourt?

I think Robinson and Cousins are a good long-term fit, and I think the three-man big rotation (including Jason Thompson) projects to be solid at worst. What Cousins needs is a strong defensive rebounder and, frankly, someone who won't take a ton of shots -- Cousins and the guards (some mix of Isaiah Thomas, Aaron Brooks, Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton) require heavy doses of those. Keith Smart has desperately wanted to install a rebound-and-run offense, and Robinson is a perfect fit for that.

What does Robinson's arrival mean for the team's ability to improve in his first season?

The Kings should improve based on a couple of other factors: a training camp with Smart, Isaiah Thomas starting at point guard from the tip, improvement from Jimmer Fredette (fingers crossed), a serviceable defensive small forward in James Johnson, a distinct lack of J.J. Hickson (who was completely awful last year), a healed Chuck Hayes, improvement from Cousins and Evans.

Robinson is almost gravy as a rookie, and I'm not sure anyone in Sacramento expects more than for him to be an average or slightly above-average third big man this season. He could be more, or he could struggle with the speed of the NBA. But the team expects to improve regardless of what Robinson does. He can push them higher, I think.