The preseason is already here. The regular season is inching closer. It definitely feels like the perfect moment to look back at what happened last year for a final time, check on some of the milestones and season-high figures achieved on all fronts, and try to predict who will and who won’t match those marks.
There is so much history to unpack and so much crystal ball to rub that I needed to split this column into two equally important parts. Here is the second of those for you, with the first one already out.
What do you think? What are your own projections and predictions? Feel free to drop your thoughts in the comment section below and let us all know about your prognosticator skill set!
Rebounds: 21 (Mitchell Robinson)
Robinson is an extraordinary shot blocker (more on that later) and a phenomenal rebounder. Going from that to saying 21 rebounds in a single game is an all-time mark would be stretching things quite a bit.
Grabbing that many boards happened 25 times last season around the league, with the true rulers of the glass—Rudy Gobert and Nikola Jokic—accounting for eight (four each) of those performances. Lower the mark to 20 rebounds and the total count goes all the way up to 38 such outings.
Robinson has increased his RPG average on a yearly basis since entering the league, though, going from 6.4 rebounds per game to 7.0, 8.1, and lastly 8.6. His rebounding rates had stayed put at around 16% in his first three seasons as a pro but the figure jumped up to 17.9% last year in a promising development.
Whether or not Mitch Rob can repeat this type of outing is really up in the air (no pun intended). If you ask me, I think that he has it in him to have a 20+ rebound yearly for the remainder of his career. That won’t be easy, though.
Looking at active players entering the next season and at stats from the past 20 years (from the 2001-02 season on) only 36 players have had at least two seasons in which they logged 20+ rebounds at least once. Robinson already has two of them. He’s 24 years old. Two more such games and he’ll be part of a select 12-man club with such a tally before turning 24 among players achieving it in the past 20 seasons.
Assists: 12 (Immanuel Quickley)
Dimes have been counted since the NBA was born. That’s why posting 12+ in a single game has been done on and on and on. No low blow on IQ, though, whose 12-assist game last season was a fantastic one no matter what.
Looking strictly at data from the three-point shot era (1979-80 on), there have been a ridiculous 10,406 (!) games in which someone dished out 12 or more dimes. Even looking at the past 20 years of play, the number still sits at a large 4,280. That’s around 214 such games per year. Quickley should repeat the feat, shouldn’t he?
Well, it’s not that simple. As many as 1,849 of those 4,280 games belong to just 10 players alone. Remove them and their numbers from the per-season average and there would only be around 120 games every season in which someone assists his teammates 12+ times. On a perfectly average league with 30 franchises, that is four such games per team. As you see, the odds for this to happen go down by the second.
Quickley will have stiff competition for minutes at the point. Jalen Brunson is now a Knickerbocker, Derrick Rose hasn’t gone anywhere, and the duo of Quentin Grimes and Miles McBride can get some reps at the one too. That said, IQ’s assist rate went from 16.2% as a rookie to a much richer 24.5% last season. He averaged 5.1 assists per 100 possessions in 2021 but 7.6 last year. He’s slowly but surely getting there.
It will take quite the effort for him to put up another 10+ dime outing. Even then, the Knicks will have some of those days here and there in which they face a rival they straight run out of the building. And that’s when it could happen. Last year, IQ logged 10+ assists three times and the Knicks won all of those games by 11, 12, and 30 points. Quick played 34, 36, and 42 minutes. It can happen. It will happen if you ask me.
Blocks: 8 (Mitchell Robinson)
I won’t overcomplicate this.
Number of times in the past 20 seasons in which someone blocked eight or more shots? 147. In the past 10 seasons? 52. Last five seasons? 13. Do you know one name that appears in all of those three lists? Mitchell Robinson’s.
Of course, the likes of Hassan Whiteside (two such games), Anthony Davis (two), and most of all Myles Turner (three) have done it to the same or greater extents than Mitch Rob, but that doesn’t mean a thing when it comes to Rob being an absolute shot-swatting beast.
Even though he has yet to turn 25 years old, Robinson has had 15 games with 5+ blocks in his short career. He’s one of only 26 players with that tally in the past 10 seasons combined. Nobody born on Planet Earth not named Mark Eaton or Manute Bol has averaged more than 3.5 shots per season. It’s unreasonable to do that.
That said, Robinson has the nose to find his way toward ill-advised shots and has posted averages of at least 1.5 BPG every single year he’s spent in the NBA getting all the way up to a career-high 2.4 in his rookie year. Give me Swat Sultan doing it again next season, why not?
Steals: 4 (Four players)
Alec Burks posted the absolute high in steals last season with five but he’s now about to hoop in Detroit. As many as four other Knicks stole four rocks in a single game last season (Mitchell Robinson, Miles McBride, Quentin Grimes, and Evan Fournier). Someone will beat this next year.
Four steals is a fairly low figure to match or even surpass. As many as 262 times has a player on the Knicks roster stole five or more balls in a single game in the history of the NBA. As many as 72 just in the past 20 years alone. Somebody definitely has to do it.
Randle stole five possessions in two different games in the 2020-21 season. Barrett did it in Oct. 2019. No other active Knick has reached that mark... unless you count a certain point guard who recently signed with the New York franchise and committed five thefts as recently as last January against the Memphis Grizzlies while donning Mavericks’ threads. Just saying.