The New York Knicks seem to have undying confidence in center Mitchell Robinson. Having played just 31 games last year due to a fractured foot and hand, Robinson was unable to reach his potential after taking a step forward during the 2019–20 campaign.
Despite his ups and downs, Robinson is confident he will make a strong return, indicating he is eyeing the Defensive Player of the Year award this upcoming season. With more strength and size added to his frame, Robinson will have more power in the paint, especially when it comes to defending power forwards and scoring centers.
Ultimately, it boils down to health for Mitchell, who will be turning 24 next year and is heading into the final year of his contract with the Knicks. He will be paid $1.8 million, but management is convinced he is preparing to take a big step forward in his growth and establish himself as one of the best defenders in the league at his position. He also has underrated scoring abilities that have been suppressed. Despite his return, the three-year veteran will have competition, as the Knicks retained Nerlens Noel on a three-year contract, guaranteeing him he would have the opportunity to compete for starting minutes.
During his small sample size last year, Robinson averaged 8.3 points, 1.5 blocks, 8.1 rebounds, and shot 65% from the field. He saw a decrease in the blocks, assists, and field-goal percentage categories, which is disappointing, but over a small sample size, we can’t create a well-rounded report card.
The main reason the Knicks haven’t seen the best of Mitchell Robinson:
One of the primary reasons Robinson has been unable to reach his potential is poor point guard play. The Knicks rolled with Elfred Payton as the primary starter last season; he averaged 3.2 assists over 23.6 minutes per game. Comparably, he averaged 7.2 assists during the 2019–20 season, so it is clear he had a tough time adapting to Tom Thibodeau’s style of play. It wasn’t until Derrick Rose joined the team that the Knicks began stringing wins together and appeared as a solid playoff-contending team.
The one factor that will benefit Mitchell the most is better point guard play, which will make him more active and efficient off the pick-and-roll and give him more opportunities in the paint with better facilitators. Rose and Robinson were unable to play together for the majority of the second half, but the veteran elevated the entire team, averaging 14.9 points, 4.2 assists, and shooting 49% from the field. With a better option down low, Rose will have more confidence kicking the ball underneath to Robinson where he can take advantage of his height and increased playing strength.
In an ideal scenario, Robinson will average double-digit points for the first time in his career next season, but he needs to improve his block rate and play a full season with a clean bill of health. If he can accomplish all of these things, which is entirely attainable, the Knkcks will likely offer him a sizable extension next off-season.