Michael Young and Jamel Artis are often referred to as Pitt's two best basketball players this season. Point guard James Robinson's fast start, however, can't be ignored.
Robinson isn't an offensive juggernaut, but that part of his game looks to be much improved. So far through the first seven games of the season, Robinson is averaging a career-high 11 points per game while shooting a career-best 42% from the field. In particular, his three-point shooting is significantly better. The Pitt guard was only a 32% career shooter from long-range in his first three seasons. This year, he is making 43% of them.
Instead of cringing when Robinson lets one fly from downtown this year, you almost expect the ball to go in the basket. He is actually shooting better from long-distance than he is from the field as a whole, and at the charity stripe, he is knocking down a career-high 83% of his free throws. Robinson is doing more than scoring, however.
As usual, he is in the upper echelon in assist to turnover margin. But Robinson is having an elite year in that category for even him. His 9/1 ratio is second in the entire nation, and his 5.1 assists and .6 turnovers are career-bests as well.
Defensively, he's been an asset, picking up 1.1 steals per contest. He's also played quality defense against the guards he's faced so far. Central Arkansas' leading scorer, Jordan Howard, was held to 3-10 shooting and only nine points this past weekend. Before that, he helped Pitt's backcourt contain Duquesne guards Derrick Colter and Micah Mason to 26 combined points - more than ten below their season averages at that point. And while Pitt lost to Purdue, point guard P.J. Thompson was held to only three points on his watch. Kent State point guard Kellon Thomas was 0-5 from the field with four points. Cornell starts three guards and they went a combined 4-24 from the field against Robinson and Pitt's backcourt. Robinson's impact on defense has been practically as big as it has been on offense.
Robinson has always been a good player. Despite the complaints about his lack of an offensive game, he's always held the offense together while taking care of the ball. But this season, he's added the offense and playing well defensively, he is really a much more complete player. I do expect that his numbers may drop off a little bit as the year wears on and he'll certainly face better offensive players in ACC play. However, it's difficult to imagine him falling completely off the face of the earth since he's just playing really well right now.
With Robinson contributing on offense and defense, he has become even more indispensable than he already was.