How will the Knicks handle the center position in Mitchell Robinson’s absence?

New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson (23) looks on during the first half against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden
Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks received crushing news on center Mitchell Robinson Wednesday night, as it was reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic that he is expected to miss the rest of the regular season after undergoing ankle surgery.

The Knicks applied for a Disabled Player Exception of $7.8 million as a result of this, which can only be applied for if league doctors think that a player will be out of action through June 15, according to Fred Katz of The Athletic.

The initial prognosis was still bad, as he wasn’t expected to be re-evaluated until around the All-Star break. However, this latest development means that the Knicks have a major hole to fill, and is also a devastating blow for Robinson, who was having a career season prior to sustaining the injury. Now the Knicks will have to plan a way to fill the void that’s left behind by Robinson.

The Knicks are decimated at the center position

The Knicks are banged up at the center position. Robinson’s replacement in the starting five, Jericho Sims, is dealing with a right ankle sprain and is expected to miss one-to-two weeks before being re-evaluated, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Prior to Sims’ injury, Robinson’s absence was felt drastically, as Sims was unable to replicate the interior production that Robinson provided. He often found himself in foul trouble and struggled on the glass.

Isaiah Hartenstein is continuing to provide a positive impact

For now, Isaiah Hartenstein has been elevated to the starting five, and he has been providing a positive impact. In his last four games (one start), he’s averaging 11.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks and has been a force underneath the rim.

While the Knicks are sure to be thankful to have Hartenstein play at a much higher level, their depth is shot. Taj Gibson was signed just a week ago, with the expectation that he wouldn’t be in the rotation. Now, he is being asked to play big minutes in a tough stretch of games for New York, which is not an ideal scenario for them to be in.

How will Robinson’s injury affect the Knicks’ deadline approach?

Therefore, the Knicks could pivot their trade deadline approach to the center market if a good fit becomes available. While they were rumored to be interested in Karl-Anthony Towns and Joel Embiid in the offseason, such a drastic move may not occur during the season, meaning they might need to settle for less significant depth moves.

If the Knicks are granted the $7.8 million Disabled Player Exception they applied for, they can use that money to sign a serviceable big that is available. Could a reunion with Nerlens Noel be in order? Or could they sign a young big with on-court potential like Kai Jones?

Nevertheless, losing Robinson for the season is a massive blow to the franchise, and unless they do trade for a superstar big before the deadline, they are going to have to trek forward undermanned.

Hartenstein is a very serviceable replacement for the time being, but if the Knicks want to enhance their depth, they may need to get active in the open market.

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