The New York Knicks may have struck gold with Mitchell Robinson. The man of mystery may be the anchor for the frontcourt for years to come.
It’s hard to believe that the New York Knicks have this much excitement connected with a team that many believe will lose close to 50 games this season.
Yet the summer league hype train that runs all the way to training camp has delivered both Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson as gifted talents with the potential to make some major noise in the NBA.
Robinson, a top recruit out of high school, has drawn comparisons to Clint Capela and has worked out with an NBA elite in Anthony Davis. There is no question that Robinson should see time as a starter this season, but how soon?
Robinson’s trainer, Marcell Scott, recently spoke with Marc Berman of the New York Post and gave insight into the process of building the 7-foot-1 athletic freak. He also goes on to predict that Robinson will be starting for the Knicks by the second half of the season.
“It’s all about timing — that’s a God-given for Mitchell,’’ Scott said. “He gets off the ground so quick. … But one thing we worked at is those hurdle jumps. A lot of hurdles.”
Scott describes Robinson’s track and field workouts including jumping over hurdles to develop those fast-twitch muscles that were on display during summer league.
Scott also points out that Robinson’s somewhat smaller than expected shoe size as a positive factor in his ability to close out, alter and/or block shots anywhere on the court.
“He really gets excited off a blocked shot,’’ Scott said. “He covers so much space. He wears a size-13 shoe. Him being that tall, he’s got feet like a guard. He gets to the perimeter quick from the box, so he’s going to block or contest every shot. [His shoe size] is actually a blessing for him.”
Robinson’s pre-draft preparation also involved a workout with NBA elite forward Anthony Davis. According to Scott, Davis was tasked with playing tough defense on the long Louisiana product.
Initially, Robinson struggled to get his shot off over Davis, but eventually, he was able to leave the perennial all-star with a lasting impression.
“I’ll tell you one thing — [Davis] didn’t think he was an NBA prospect at first,’’ Scott added. “Until he got on the court and saw he moves really good, was quick off the ground, [then] he understood Mitch was special.’’
Finally, Scott also mentions that the best is yet to come for Robinson. In summer league, Robinson’s damage came off double picks and slashes to the hoop. However, Robinson’s crazy potential can be met if he continues to develop his three-point shot and work on his handle.
This leads us to the upcoming season. Enes Kanter will no doubt be penciled in as the starting center for game one of 82. Kanter will make $18.6 million and will do his best to showcase his skills in a contract year.
But with Kristaps Porzingis out for most of the season, the Knicks brass need every opportunity to see what they can expect from Robinson. Robinson should start at least 15-20 games for the Knicks.
This will undoubtedly cause some friction between Kanter and the franchise, and if that is the case, they need to do their best to trade him prior to the deadline. Despite Kanter’s lack of shooting and deficits on defense, his scoring ability out of the post and offensive rebounding will certainly be useful in a reserve role on a contending team.
Going into the 2016 season, Clint Capela was named the starting center over veteran Nene. Initially, head coach Mike D’Antoni said that he wanted the minutes split evenly “24-24” between the two. During the previous season, Capela had started 35 games, yet the consitent starting role yielded positive results.
Capela averaged just under 24 minutes, 12.6 points, and 8.1 rebounds per game. As a result, the Rockets have become one of the best teams in the NBA, and for his efforts, Capela recently signed an incentive-laden deal for five-years, $90 million.
In Utah, a similar situation took place with Rudy Gobert. Gobert had limited production during the 2013-2014 season where he averaged 2.3 points and 3.4 rebounds while playing 9.6 minutes per game. Injuries played a major role there.
However, after Kanter was traded to Oklahoma City (go figure), Gobert started 37 games in 2014-2015 and averaged close to a double-double.
To think that Kanter may have the unintended opportunity to birth one more starting NBA big man with his exit is beyond funny.
But it will be Knicks fans that have the last laugh if the powers that be can be patient and develop Robinson properly. Give Steve Mills and Scott Perry the credit for taking a chance on a player who has not played in an organized game (prior to summer league) for a quite a while. But now the hard work begins.
His immediate future is in the G League but given the opportunity to start this season, and if allowed to follow the career path of players like Capela and Gobert, Robinson can be the defensive anchor Knicks fans have not seen for over a decade.