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Player Preview: Mitchell Robinson, a very offensive rim rattler

Big boards, strong buckets, stout screens, and all of what matters.

2023 New York Knicks Media Day Photo by Michael J. LeBrecht II/NBAE via Getty Images

Legitimate question: is there any player more fundamental in the New York Knicks roster other than Mitchell Robinson?

Not better. Not more skilled. Not more impactful. But more fundamental. It’s fair to say the answer is no.

Let’s keep things close to this day. Let’s keep the explanations modern and contemporary.

I have watched a couple of preseason games in the past week, both of them played by the New York Knicks. I have yet to see a player doing and showing more than Mitch Rob out there on the floor.

One could say that experts agree with me to some extent and have started to finally, once and for all, value what Robinson does on a basketball court. Not that the big man cares at all, though.

“Nah, I really don’t care,” Robinson told Steve Popper of Newsday before Saturday’s matchup against the Wolves when asked about his opinion about making the list as the 100th-best player in the Association.

Robinson is right in acknowledging that he’s always undervalued because he doesn’t score. He’s underrated because he simply can’t stretch the floor. He’s bashed because he misses freebies more often than not.

As Thibs said, “Oftentimes people overlook what Mitch brings to the team.”

And that’s precisely why he’s the most fundamental piece in the System of Thibs, which is based on rebounding, physicality, grittiness, effort, and well, big-man fundamentals.

The best thing about analyzing Robinson is that there is nothing left to analyze about his game anymore.

Mitch is a board beast. He’s grabbed more offensive rebounds than you could imagine (1,038 and counting since entering the league in the summer of 2018). He’s done so by playing a measly 175 games in the last five seasons (of the maximum near-400). He’s pulling down nearly six offensive rebounds per game. He’s not quite there on the defensive end, but the 1,237 total on that front and 7.1 on average speak for themselves.

Folks will keep coming at him telling Mitch he should attempt a three. He should at least go mid-range. He should do this, he should do that. Guess what? To hell with that!

Mitchell Robinson is entering his sixth NBA season. He’s the only player in the current roster of the Knicks that endured the awful 2019 season in which New York won a shameful 17 games and dropped 65 under David Fizdale.

Last year, Robinson grabbed 4.5 offensive rebounds per game—the second-highest figure in the league—and blocked 1.8 shots a pop. Nobody in the L did that, and it wasn’t particularly close.

Robinson fell short of averaging a 10-10-1-1-2 per-game stat line by fewer than three points, half a board, and a hair-of-and-assist/steal/block. His actual numbers read, respectively: 7.4, 9.4, 0.9, 0.9, and 1.8. He did that in only 27 minutes of play per game.

More impressively, Robinson shot the rock at a blinding 67.1% field-goal percentage from the field. The free-throw shooting wasn’t a beauty (48.4%), and it looks like it will never get fixed. Mitch has shot at an ever-decreasing clip from the charity stripe since he entered the league, going from 60 to 56.8, 49.1, 48.6, and 48.4 percent last year.

But Robinson is a classic and connatural big man. Full stop. And that’s fundamental for Thibs’ scheme and ideology. There is no better center in the league that could do the dirty job Mitch completes every night.

The boy is coming off a couple of preseason games in which he’s put up a combined 18 points, 14 boards, four blocks, and a couple of steals. That yields an average of 9-7-0-1-2, which is basically his 2023 year-long statline.

The difference: he did it in 27 minutes last year, and only in 22 MPG during this mid-October week. Bump those figures up to 28 MPG, and all of a sudden Robinson is, finally, a double-doubler!

Not even that would silence critics, of course. You already saw it last Tuesday when the poor man went 0-for-3 from the line, and blogboys were quick to make note of that just to write about it in their reports. As if MR23 wasn’t trying to improve daily in private. Sheesh...

I might be hallucinating, but at least I have my man Sam backing my eyes and brain up. And I don’t know about you, but I’m going to enjoy the hell out of Mitch in what, honestly, looks to me like his true breakout, I’m-here-to-stay-so-you-better-remember-my-name season.