After the Knicks selected Mitchell Robinson with the 34th pick in the NBA Draft, many experts speculated that he would be a project player. The decision to select him was met with mixed reactions from fans and experts alike. What does this mean for his future?
The mitchell robinson injury is a decision that the New York Knicks have made. It has been speculated that this decision will affect the future of Mitchell Robinson.
Mitchell Robinson, who is entering a critical season for his financial future, may become an unrestricted free agent in the NBA in 2023.
Robinson’s rookie deal included a fourth-year option, and the New York Knicks could have rejected it and let him become a restricted free agency this summer, enabling him to establish his own market and negotiate an extension that way.
Robinson’s fourth-year option was picked up by the Knicks, enabling him to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. However, Robinson’s chances of signing a contract extension and avoiding the free market aren’t completely nil.
He and the Knicks have until the start of free agency next year to reach a deal. Those in the know, however, do not believe this is completely probable, at least not in the near future. Ian Begley of SNY says:
Between now and free agency, the Knicks have the option to give Robinson a contract extension. The contract renewal may last up to four years and cost up to $54 million in total.
According to SNY sources, several Knicks officials indicated in the summer that the team was unlikely to commit to an extension with Robinson early in the season because they wanted to analyze Robinson more thoroughly throughout the season before deciding on a long-term strategy.
Robinson, a defensive powerhouse and an exceptional lob threat on offense, has his flaws, but he has been a huge asset for the Knicks throughout his tenure with the team. If he recovers from his foot ailment from last season and proves himself healthy this season, the Knicks may be forced to make a franchise-altering choice if they do not extend him.
According to Basketball-Reference, while Robinson was on the floor, the Knicks were +3.7 and +5.9 points per 100 possessions better than when he wasn’t.
Last season, they were -5.6 points per 100 with Robinson on the court, but those numbers are easy to dismiss given that Robinson was only healthy for the first half of the season, when the Knicks were playing around.500 basketball and hadn’t yet made their playoff run — while the two samples from his first season had the minutes roughly split, the B-Ref sample for his third season had the minutes roughly split.
The BBall Index Lineup Tool is used to try to provide a more balanced view of Robinson’s influence last year. The following are the Knicks’ possible starting lineups, with Robinson, Nerlens Noel, and Taj Gibson filling in at center:
To begin with, what a pleasure it is to have three defensive-minded centers on the roster. In Defensive LEBRON, BBall Index’s all-encompassing box score metric, none of the three finished below the 94.2nd percentile.
That essentially implies the Knicks will have an anchor out there at the 5 to keep it down on defense regardless of who they start.
What’s more intriguing are the three’s overall LEBRON statistics, as well as their rim finishing. Robinson is ahead of Noel and slightly behind Gibson in terms of total LEBRON, scoring in the 76.4th percentile. Robinson also scored much better than Noel when it came to finishing at the rim, ranking in the 61st percentile.
While it’s fantastic that Gibson is still grading out so well in advanced metrics at the ripe old age of 36, it’s probably for the best that he’s just the second- or third-string center at this point in terms of minutes burden.
Robinson performs even better in BBall Index’s Stable Scoring Impact tool for the 2019-20 season, in which he established the NBA record for field goal percentage:
Up until those final five categories, you can pretty much disregard anything, but they’re crucial. Mitch scored in the 78th percentile on cuts and dump-offs, 88th percentile on put-backs, and a whopping 97th percentile on pick-and-rolls.
His defensive effect gets the most attention, yet compared to his Knicks teammate Noel, Robinson’s biggest strength is his vertical gravity at the rim. Only a few players in the NBA need the same level of defensive attention as Robinson as a lob threat near the rim.
Another significant difference between Robinson and Noel is their ability to recover. Robinson made a significant improvement as a rebounder last season. Don’t be fooled by his lowly 8.1 rebounds in 27.1 minutes per game; his presence on the boards on both ends was palpable last season.
Take a look at a few BBall Index data that show Robinson’s superiority over Noel in terms of contested offensive and defensive rebounds, as well as rebounding impact:
“Contested” rebounds are exactly what they sound like: a rebound that requires a player to battle with another player for, rather than one that occurs by chance. In such circumstances, Robinson and Noel aren’t even close.
And, with Robinson allegedly packing on 20 pounds of muscle during the summer, the gap is only going to widen, since Noel is still as frail as he was when he first joined the game. Just for fun, here are Robinson’s statistics in those categories versus some of the league’s best rebounders:
All of this is to say that the argument for keeping Robinson is fairly straightforward: at the age of 23, he’s an exceptional defender, an elite finisher near the rim, and now an elite rebounder.
Retaining him would mean giving up on a young core component who has done nothing to indicate he’s worth giving up on, apart from a pair of fluke injuries that took him off the floor in his third season.
The only thing that may get in the way is the cost. The Knicks have the ability to give Robinson a four-year, $52 million contract extension, as stated in the Begley clip above. Depending on how this season goes, a handful of similar players who used to play in the Atlantic Division may offer the blueprints for Robinson’s asking price.
Despite Cleveland selecting Evan Mobley third overall in the 2023 Draft, Jarrett Allen signed a five-year, $100 million contract with them. Boston re-signed Robert Williams for four years and $54 million. Even if Williams is seen as the bottom end of a possible new Robinson deal scale, the Knicks’ maximum allowable sum would be insufficient.
That means Robinson may sign with the Knicks even if he is eligible for unrestricted free agency. Robinson and his agent may go into free agency wanting to leave the Knicks out of spite if the Knicks have been low-balling in contract talks.
Robinson’s release makes little sense since the Knicks don’t have a clear route to high salary space next offseason and the free agency classes for the next several years aren’t very exciting.
Plus, if you’re the Knicks, why hoard the cap space when the in vogue approach for great players to transfer clubs now seems to be requesting a trade rather than simply signing elsewhere?
All of this is to argue that, at just 23, Robinson is one of the most influential big players in the NBA, and the Knicks should do all they can to retain him. Robinson, even at a salary of about $20 million, will always be moveable due to his extraordinary defensive abilities — making him an ideal salary and player to include in a trade for a super star, should one become available.
But who knows whether they’d want to deal a guy whose advanced metrics indicate he might win Defensive Player of the Year in the near future.
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