This season, Posting & Toasting will be handing out Player of the Week awards. Maybe someday Basketball Reference will include these prestigious titles in the “Accolades” section at the bottom of their player pages. Time will tell.
For the first time in a long time, almost every Knick playing meaningful minutes this year will be returning from last year’s roster. As a result, one can’t really hope to take away too much from preseason action. Injecting meaning into meaningless basketball is usually difficult. On the tail end of a low-drama offseason, it can be even harder. Judging the Player of the Week off 48 minutes of meaningless action can be a daunting task.
That said, seeing the Knicks back on the floor after a few months is a great opportunity to see what players have been working on over the offseason.
In game one of exhibition ball, several players impressed. Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle looked sharp in limited action. RJ Barrett put on a free throw clinic, a trend that many fans hope to see into the season. Immanuel Quickley had 21 points in 23 minutes, alongside a trio of both assists and steals in an impressive effort.
Perhaps the most encouraging performance, though, belonged to Mitchell Robinson.
This week, ESPN ranked him as the No. 100 player in the league, the last player to crack the rankings. But crack the rankings he did. One of the X-factors on this team, Robinson’s defensive impact goes far beyond the box score. The rebounding and rim protection is some of the best in the league.
Quentin Grimes might have said it best on media day. “He’s probably the most important player on the team.” After a dominant postseason series against the Cleveland Cavaliers last year, many fans were looking forward to Robinson’s preseason debut.
In game one, Robinson did not disappoint:
It wasn’t his 10 points and seven rebounds against Boston that impressed most. Nor his two steals and three blocks, although those didn’t hurt. His energy was high. He is in great shape. Wally Szczerbiak made note of Mitch’s frame and stronger base compared to last year during the broadcast, and he was spot on. Just a few years ago, Robinson came into the league at 223 pounds. His listed weight is now 240, and he looks the part. The boy is a man. Even compared to last season, his lower body looks more powerful.
If the Knicks want to make a deep playoff run, Robinson will have to cement himself as an upper-tier center in the league, one with an expanded offensive arsenal. On Monday night at the Garden, he looked ready to assume that role. The league should be on watch. Knicks fans, we have a center. And that center is the Player of the Week.