Thomas Robinson went from 15 minutes a game as a sophomore to a player of the year candidate as a junior. Robinson's emergence wasn't a complete surprise, but his advanced stats -- those that are independent of playing time -- suggested he was a special player as a sophomore. That season, Robinson posted an offensive rating of 107 using 27 percent of Kansas' possessions while he was on the floor. In addition, he put up staggering rebound rates on both ends of the court, grabbing 19 percent of the Jayhawks' missed shots and 31 percent of his opponents' missed shots.
If applied to a starter on a top-five team, those numbers would get a person mentioned in the player of the year race, and indeed, Robinson's advanced stats translated nicely when he took on increased minutes last season.
Robinson wasn't the only player to jump from bench jockey to super-productive starter last season. Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas and Colorado's Andre Roberson did, as well. Thomas played just 14 minutes as a freshman, but as a sophomore he became one of the most potent offensive weapons in the Big Ten. Roberson was largely anonymous as a freshman, playing 22 minutes per game. However, his rate stats gave away his rebounding prowess, and upon becoming a starter, he finished second in the nation in rebounds per game last season.
Of course, you can't take every part-time player's advanced stats to the bank when they inherit more minutes. After poring over dozens of productive seasons by part-time players, I've developed a filter that can help us identify which productive part-timers are more likely to be destined for future success as starters.