The Knicks can save $14.3 million next season by off-loading injury-prone center

May 6, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson (23) grabs a rebound against Indiana Pacers forward Isaiah Jackson (22) during the fourth quarter of game one of the second round of the 2024 NBA playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s make one thing clear: nobody actually wants to trade Knicks star defensive center Mitchell Robinson, but his inability to stay healthy has become problematic over the past few seasons.

Robinson signed a four-year, $60 million extension ahead of the 2022–23 season, counting $17 million against the salary cap that year. That number has been reducing, and he will eat up $14.3 million for the 2024–25 season at just 26 years old.

However, the Knicks could use that money for another player, let alone re-signing Isaiah Hartenstein, especially since Robinson once again missed substantial time this past year, playing just 31 regular season games.

Apr 22, 2024; New York, New York, USA;  Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) shoots the ball as New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson (23) defends during the first half during game two of the first round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 22, 2024; New York, New York, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) shoots the ball as New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson (23) defends during the first half during game two of the first round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Over those games, Robinson recorded a career-low 5.6 points and 8.5 rebounds, shooting .575 from the field. Ultimately, the Knicks actually ended up discovering Hartenstein’s upside because of Robinson’s injury, so the writing might be on the wall, and another team will be willing to acquire Robinson in hopes of extracting maximum value on a reasonable contract.

The Knicks Need to Think Strategically

The Knicks will need to clear salary space if they want to bring back Hartenstein, and using their draft picks to replace Robinson’s roster spot may be advisable. Dillon Jones, out of Weber State, could make perfect sense as a 3-and-D wing; he saw his point production skyrocket this past season, including his play-making qualities and rebounding. He actually might be the perfect fit to support the defense and scoring options off the bench, but would leave a gap at center behind IHart.

Ideally, the Knicks will be a healthy team come the postseason next year, and Robinson simply hasn’t proven to achieve long-term health, which has forced them into some difficult situations. It has put a lot more pressure on the team’s reserves as well, as Hartenstein was certainly dealing with a few bumps and bruises as they pushed forward in the postseason.

Obviously, the upside of Robinson is shutting down a player like Joel Embiid. Still, sometimes, the best ability is availability, and the Knicks can no longer rely on him to show up when they need him most.

Mentioned in this article:

More about: