Knicks: Should Mitchell Robinson come off the bench when he returns?

NBA: New York Knicks at Boston Celtics
Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

With the New York Knicks likely getting center Mitchell Robinson back on the court soon, it is time to wonder if he will retake his starting spot or come off the bench when he returns. The latest injury update surrounding Robinson indicated that he could soon return to game action after missing the last three months, as he played through contact in practice on Wednesday.

Thibodeau gave no clear timetable for a return, but the fact that he has been cleared for full contact before the season’s end is a big step forward in what has been a remarkable rehab from the 25-year-old center.

Isaiah Hartenstein has earned his starting job

Isaiah Hartenstein has been starting in place of Robinson since December and has been tremendous on both ends of the floor. He has also seemed to find a way to play with the starters that makes him a more enticing long-term fit over Robinson.

Robinson himself even insisted that he may benefit from playing with the second unit more, commenting on an Instagram post, “I’ll rather come off the bench maybe I can show more,” with a shrugging emoji.

If the Knicks decide to have him be a bench player, this wouldn’t be the first time head coach Tom Thibodeau has had Robinson be the backup upon returning from an injury, having done so on two separate occasions over the past four seasons.

Robinson coming off the bench would make the Knicks even deeper

Robinson was having a tremendous season before suffering an ankle injury that required surgery, averaging 10.3 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, and 1.5 steals per game while being the league’s best offensive rebounder.

Having him play in the Knicks’ second unit alongside Miles McBride, Josh Hart and Bojan Bogdanovic would strengthen that unit’s defense while also allowing Hartenstein to play with the starters after developing such phenomenal chemistry with them. It also gives Thibodeau increased flexibility to stagger Robinson and Hartenstein’s minutes depending on what presence they need more in certain situations.

On top of that, having Robinson play off the bench would be more beneficial for his ramp-up as he prepares for the playoffs, as he will certainly need to feel his way back into playing shape after missing several months of action.

No decision about the rotation as Robinson returns has been made at this time, but it may be the most logical to have him come off the bench, at least temporarily. Nevertheless, having him back will be huge for the Knicks in the playoffs, as he brings a dominant presence underneath the rim that not many other bigs can replicate.

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