New York Knicks: Mitchell Robinson, the pleasant surprise

New York Knicks, Mitchell Robinson (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
New York Knicks, Mitchell Robinson (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

The New York Knicks landed a draft-day steal when they selected Mitchell Robinson in the second round of the 2018 NBA Draft.

Heading into the 2018 NBA Draft, New York Knicks big man Mitchell Robinson was basically an unknown prospect. He planned on playing college basketball at Western Kentucky University for the 2017-18 season, but was later suspended indefinitely by the program. Robinson was suspended for packing his belongings and leaving the campus along with missing a team workout without informing anyone on the team.

He supposedly had second thoughts about attending the university, which ultimately led to him deciding not to play college basketball. Instead, Robinson focused on working out to prepare himself for the NBA Draft that summer. Unsurprisingly, deciding to skip playing college basketball lowered his draft stock greatly.

Just a year prior in 2017, when Robinson was a senior in high school, he was widely viewed as a top-10 player in the country and he participated in the McDonald’s All-American game. Many thought of Robinson as a lock to be a first round draft pick prior to his college-related controversy.

By the time of the 2018 NBA Draft, Mitchell Robinson’s stock had plummeted to the middle of the second round. In Bleacher Report‘s final mock draft, he was projected to be selected by the Los Angeles Lakers with the 39th overall pick. Teams were wary of taking a chance on Robinson because he was unproven compared to most other prospects due to his lack of college basketball experience.

Every team in the first round ended up passing on Mitchell Robinson. He had to wait until the No. 36 pick for his name to finally be called as a member of the New York Knicks. At the time, the Knicks were praised for this selection because Robinson was a high-risk, high-reward type of prospect who was definitely worth taking a chance on in the second round.

Fortunately for the organization, drafting Robinson has proven to be a great decision so far. During NBA Summer League, Robinson had his first opportunity to display his skill-set to New York fans and he certainly took advantage of it. He finished the Las Vegas Summer League Tournament with an impressive stat line of 13.0 points, 10.2 rebounds and 4.0 blocks in just 24.8 minutes per game.

Robinson’s 4.0 blocks per game marked the highest average in Summer League history. Throughout the entirety of the tournament, he was able to show off his insanely high defensive potential with his effectiveness covering the pick-and-roll. For a player of his size, Robinson is extremely mobile and has no problem switching onto guards and staying in front of them.

He was able to receive somewhat consistent minutes when the regular season rolled around due to his impressive Summer League play, coupled with the fact that the Knicks were rebuilding. In 66 games and 19 starts, the 21-year-old averaged 7.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 20.6 minutes per game.

During the regular season, Robinson demonstrated that he possesses great touch around the rim. He did a great job of using his leaping ability to catch and finish lobs for easy buckets close to the basket. Also, Robinson was able to show off his offensive rebounding prowess. He is already a borderline elite offensive rebounder, as he averaged 2.7 per game. This is a skill that has become rarer and rarer in today’s NBA, but is still a very useful ability to possess.

Robinson finished his rookie season with the second-highest blocks per game average in the NBA, behind only Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner. He only finished 0.2 blocks behind Turner despite the fact that he played eight fewer minutes per game. Mitchell Robinson has already proven to be an elite shot blocker because he is superb at perfectly timing when to leave his feet in order to reject shot attempts.

At just 21 years old, Robinson certainly has Defensive Player of the Year potential. With a larger role and more playing time, he could easily lead the league in blocked shots. It would be wise for coach David Fizdale to grant Robinson more minutes in order for the young man to further his development.

His offensive game is currently limited, as he cannot do much besides finish at the rim either off lob passes or second-chance points. Robinson needs to work on improving his offensive game, most notably his post scoring. He has the build and touch to be successful down low if he develops some basic post moves.

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Despite his limited offensive skills, Mitchell Robinson is an excellent prospect for the Knicks who will likely only continue to improve as he becomes more comfortable on an NBA court.