How will the Knicks replace Mitchell Robinson after season-ending injury?

Indiana Pacers guard Bennedict Mathurin (00) drives to the basket while being defended by New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) during the first quarter at Madison Square Garden
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The New York Knicks rotation was already thin entering the playoffs, and now it’s even thinner after the team announced Tuesday that backup center Mitchell Robinson suffered a stress injury to his ankle and will be re-evaluated in 6-8 weeks, essentially ending his postseason prematurely.

Once again, the Knicks now will have to go to the next man up, with it likely being Precious Achiuwa, who played four minutes in Game 1 versus the Pacers but has otherwise not seen the court a whole lot during the playoffs.

Precious Achiuwa once again finds himself having to step in for an injured Knick

nba: boston celtics at new york knicks, precious achiuwa
Feb 24, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) hangs on the rim after a dunk against Boston Celtics forwards Jayson Tatum (0) and Sam Hauser (30) during the third quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Achiuwa will now be the backup center moving forward, which leaves the Knicks’ second unit with just two players: Achiuwa and guard Miles McBride.

Achiuwa has been a revelation since coming over as part of the OG Anunoby deal, especially on the defensive side of the ball, which proved to pay dividends when he shut down reigning MVP and 76ers star Joel Embiid in a pivotal Game 4 victory in the first round while subbing in for an injured Robinson.

While Achiuwa is still a serviceable backup big who can provide quality minutes against a strong Pacers offense that features a lot of size, the Knicks will still be missing Robinson badly, as he provided them with an imposing presence underneath the basket on both ends of the floor. Robinson was also useful since Isaiah Hartenstein found himself into foul trouble often during the first round, but now the Knicks no longer have that bail-out option to go to in the event of that occurring again.

Therefore, if injuries or foul trouble permit, fourth-string center Jericho Sims could even see minimal action on the floor, though the Knicks will probably try to avoid going to him in any possible way given that he has been out of the rotation for several months.

Achiuwa’s defense will be a plus, but his lack of offense will hurt the Knicks

Portland Trail Blazers guard Malcolm Brogdon (11) drives past New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) for layup in the second quarter at Madison Square Garden
Jan 9, 2024; New York, New York, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Malcolm Brogdon (11) drives past New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) for layup in the second quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Achiuwa’s defense is the least of the Knicks’ concerns, as he has demonstrated the ability to guard at multiple positions at a high level. The main area of concern lies offensively, as he has really struggled on that end of the floor during his time with the Knicks. While Robinson was not much of an offensive creator himself, his seven-foot frame and long wingspan allowed him to be a lob threat. At 6’8”, Achiuwa does not pose the same threat to Pacers bigs Myles Turner, Pascal Siakam, and Isaiah Jackson.

Therefore, the idea of inserting guard Alec Burks back into the rotation becomes a larger looming question now, as they will need to generate some sort of offense out of the second unit. In Game 1, the Knicks only had three bench points to the Pacers’ 46, yet New York still walked out of Madison Square Garden up 1-0 in the series.

The bench was already a massive concern after the season-ending injuries to Bojan Bogdanovic, but with Robinson now on the shelf the rest of the way, New York will be without three high-level rotation players for the remainder of the postseason. Fatigue will eventually settle into the starters, so they will need some other guys to come in and step up if they envision a deep playoff run.

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