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Knicks 2022-23 player review: Mitchell Robinson

Offensive Block Ness Monster... stuck in the wrong era?

2023 NBA Playoffs - New York Knicks v Miami Heat Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

If you have been paying attention to the Association for more than 10 years, or if you’re a hoops connoisseur who took advantage of the lockdown days of 2020 to learn about the history of the L, then you might have heard about this thing they called “Big Men.”

I mean real, dominant, stout, dunks-and-blocks thicc big bois.

The last time Roy Hibbert, aka The Last Big, made an All-Star, we had barely entered the 2014 calendar year. No, seriously. Hibbert, in case you have forgotten or just don’t know, was a force to be reckoned with that pretty much murdered the dreams of New Yorkers and Knickerbocker fans all across the globe on the spot. Ask Carmelo Anthony.

“That block,” Melo said, “changed everything.”

But what if True Bigs are back? What if, actually, they never really stopped roaming the Earth and were just left outside of the NBA realm? Well, if that’s the case, then Mitchell Robinson is the man leading all of those big men.

Mitch-Rob, Unique Beast

Welcome to Year 1 a.CE of the Mitchell Robinson Era.

After Contract Extension, that is. The Knicks inked Mitch to a four-year, $60-million deal last July. There was a lot of talk leading up to the moment the pact was finally announced.

Should the Knicks re-sign Robinson? Should they just sign-and-trade him for somebody else? Let him go for nothing? Offer him only $10 million per year? Maybe $11.5m? Throw the full $12.5m bag at him to secure his signature?

Well, at the end of the day, New York decided to hand Mitch his full $60M guaranteed only on a decreasing basis, starting at $17M this past season and going down from that figure to around $15.5, $14.5, and $13M in the next three campaigns. All for a neat average of $15 million a pop.

Whether the investment was, is, and will be worth it or not, depends on your optics of what the boy offers and how the Knicks are currently constructed.

I don’t think there is anything to left to discuss about this man’s game style that has not been talked about a million times already and analyzed to death.

Robinson gives you what he gives you, and what Robinson gives you is basically a limited bunch of paint-buckets to go with unlimited rebounds and a good amount of swatted rocks.

What he doesn’t give you, in the current environment the NBA operates, is what hurts the Knicks—or any other team that happened to roster him—the most: floor-stretching, creativity, shooting, and anything else unrelated to mid-80s centers.

The numbers have always been gaudy, mind you. Robinson is only a five-year pro but he’s posted BPG averages of 2.4, 2.0, 1.5, 1.8, and again 1.8 this last season. He’s rebounded more balls per game each passing season starting at 6.4 RPG in his rookie year and pushing that number all the way up to 9.4 RPG in 2022-23.

The offensive boards are, well, offensive, at a silly 4.5 ORPG this season after already grabbing more than four last year.

The shooting percentages are extraordinary with Robinson hitting at least 65.3% of his floor attempts in each of his five years in the A. He even led the freaking league as a sophomore back in 2020 with a stupid 74.2 field-goal percentage. Jesus.

The problem, and you might have already noticed, is that I wrote floor attempts but I could have simply written paint attempts and it’d had been the same. That’s because, sadly in this age, Robinson doesn’t know how how to operate outside of the fresco.

That doesn’t mean that Robinson is useful. In fact, he was the main reason (obviously not named Jalen) New York coasted through the first round of the playoffs and sent Cleveland and their super-paint pairing home packing.

Only, when tasked with stopping Bam Adebayo and with rebounds not really falling his way against the Heat, Robinson just disappeared and the Knicks vanished from the playoffs.

Robinson has improved his game a ton since he entered the league, and that’s to say something considering he’s found it nearly impossible to stay on the court. He played 72 games in 2022 but this year he went back to his early-career (un)healthy woes appearing in only 59 matchups.

The center played the second-most minutes (1,591) in a single season, yes, but that’s fewer minutes than 170 other NBA players in 2023 and even looking exclusively at players usually manning the five, he’d still rank a low 31st in total MP among those in that group.

On the bright side, Robinson swatted 1.8 shots a pop to go with 9.4 boards per game. Only Anthony Davis put those two figures together this season—missing three more games than Robinson but playing a grand total of 313 more minutes than the Knick through the year.

The 4.5 ORPG logged by Robinson was nearly unparalleled, though, with Seven Adams (5.1) the only other player reaching that mark this season. Adams, though, blocked fewer shots. He scored 8.6 points to Robinson’s dreadful 7.6 PPG.

So, can a big man compete in this league? You be the judge.

It took no time after the Knicks crashed out of the playoffs for trade rumors to start popping up in bunches. Of course, the main player named in all of those potential deals goes by the name of Julius, not Mitchell. But Robinson could turn into collateral damage part of those trade packages.

Nobody is safe in this business, so we’ll see where things go and how the roster looks when the summer is over.

Wake me up when September ends. If I’m lucky, I’ll still be able to watch a big man doing his thang inside MSG.