Rookie center Mitchell Robinson has been one of the few bright spots of this season for the New York Knicks. The 20-year-old big man became one of the greatest surprises and best players for the Knicks this year. It’s time to reward him with a spot in the starting lineup; not just because the Knicks are a tanking team, but because he’s performed that well.
Why Mitchell Robinson Should Start The Remainder Of The Season
Current State of the Knicks
The 2018-19 Knicks are among the worst teams in basketball this year. The healthy roster at the beginning of the year consisted of a mix of young guys in their first or second year and older role players who have combined to receive 0 All-Star nominations. The Knicks ended up trading their 23-year-old star player, Kristaps Porzingis, when they found out he didn’t want to be a part of the team. In exchange, New York received some assets and the cap space to chase big-time free agents this summer.
It’s a risky decision, as the Knicks chose to go all in on this summer’s free agency by creating two slots for max contracts. This current season’s purpose was/is to lose games in order to get high draft odds and develop players. The Knicks currently boast the second worst record in the league at 11-47. They recently ended an 18-game losing streak, the largest in franchise history. Not great.
Robinson’s traditional box score numbers don’t pop out, as he averages just 6.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 0.5 assists in 17.9 minutes per game. His averages of 0.7 steals and 2.1 blocks per game, however, are remarkable numbers for any rookie playing under 20 minutes, let alone a second round pick.
Overall, Robinson has been one of the most impactful centers this season. The 36th overall pick currently has the 36th highest PER in the entire NBA. He’s tied for 5th in the league in blocks per game and is the only player in the top 10 playing under 20 minutes per game (at 17.9). He has more games with 3 blocks (7) than games with 0 blocks (6).
Robinson has put up several impressive performances against some of the NBA’s best talent. Recently, he put up 14 points, 13 rebounds and 2 blocks against Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers (2 of those blocks coming on Embiid). He also recorded 8 points, 6 blocks and 4 rebounds in a win against the Boston Celtics and 15 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks in a close loss to the Toronto Raptors.
The only catch to Robinson’s impressive play is his fouling. In several games, he’s gotten himself into foul trouble, which has limited his playing time. He has five games where he fouled out in only 20 minutes, the most in the league. Robinson managed to foul out in nine minutes against the New Orleans Pelicans earlier in the season (not before tallying 5 points and 2 blocks). Still, Robinson has gotten better over the season with fouling less.
Despite a limited offensive game, Robinson’s game works in the modern NBA. His athleticism and relentlessness make an impact, as he contests 9.4 shots per game and records 1.4 deflections per game. His 7′ 3.5″ wingspan creates havoc on defense and makes him inept at catching alley-oops. Although he is not a strong rebounding, he is active on the boards offensively and defensively.
The Knicks currently have the newly acquired DeAndre Jordan starting at center. Jordan, who plays almost identically to Robinson, is 30 years old. He was acquired in the Porzingis trade to create cap space, as his contract expires after this season. Since the Knicks are looking to develop young players, it makes perfect sense to start the younger Robinson, especially because it doesn’t have to change their game plan too much.
As the Knicks continue their march towards the best draft odds possible, it makes sense to give minutes to the young players, especially those who have earned it. Robinson has the potential to be an impactful center one day and has played well enough to earn the right to start for the remainder of the year. The Knicks aren’t too concerned with their record, so why not let the 7′ 1″ youngster loose for the rest of the season?
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – April 14: Mitchell Robinson #24 of W. Kentucky in action during the Jordan Brand Classic, National Boys Team All-Star basketball game at The Barclays Center on April 14, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)