The New York Knicks had a double-digit lead at one point in the second half against the Utah Jazz on Monday night, but they ended up losing by nine points on the back of Donovan Mitchell and his 32 point performance.
Mitchell was electric, converting 13 of 26 shots from the field and tallying six assists.
However, the Knicks enjoyed solid performances from Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, and notably Mitchell Robinson. Randle finished with 30 points, five assists, and six rebounds, with Barrett adding 23 points and six assists, but shot just 8 of 25 from the field.
On the other hand, Robinson posted a career-high 21 rebounds, including 10 offensive. He contributed 19 points and three blocks, showcasing yet again that Robinson is finally hitting his stride after fighting his way back from stamina issues and injury last season.
With the trade deadline just a few days away, the Knicks have to make a big decision on Robinson, whether or not they want to utilize him as a trade piece or extend him.
“I’m just going to continue to play hard, see what happens,’’ Robinson said when asked again whether he wants to be here next season, per Marc Berman of the NY Post. “I don’t think about it that much. I just want to hoop. That’s what I’ve got an agent for. He handles that so I can focus on basketball.
“We talk here and there,’’ Robinson said of his agent. “He’s going to handle that for me. I trust him. You all can talk to him if you want. I’m just here to play basketball.’’
Last month, Robinson averaged 10.6 points, 9.1 rebounds and shot 82.6% from the field. To start February, he’s posted 12.3 points per game over three contests and recorded 14.3 rebounds on average. With Robinson setting career highs left and right, the Knicks are likely considering extending him on a long-term deal rather than utilizing him in a trade.
Robinson is far from the issue for New York, who have struggled to get the most out of Julius Randle this season. The team needs a star point guard to lead the way, but head coach Tom Thibodeau and the front office are reluctant to utilize youth pieces as trade bait.
According to SNY, the Knicks are receiving interest in Robinson, notably for the Detroit Pistons. Finding a mutually beneficial deal will be tough unless they can manage to acquire Jerami Grant. However, Grant plays the power forward position, so unless the two teams are willing to swap Randle for Grant in a more prominent deal, the rosters don’t precisely add up.
Now that we are seeing the best version of Robinson, the Knicks are better off selling on Nerland’s Noel and his three-year, $30 million extension. The team is in a strange spot given their needs and valuable assets they are willing to trade.