New York Knicks Mitchell Robinson
(Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)

David Fizdale’s confidence in Mitchell Robinson is growing and he could be a mainstay in the New York Knicks starting lineup this year.

Danny Small

The New York Knicks may have found a hidden gem in the second round of the 2018 NBA Draft. Mitchell Robinson, a McDonald’s All-American, fell in the Knicks lap with the 36th pick despite being projected as high as the lottery during different parts of the pre-draft process. He fell out of favor with scouts when he left Western Kentucky without ever playing a game.

Robinson’s year off from competitive basketball definitely set him back a bit, but he’s already exceeding early expectations. In fact, a few weeks ago, head coach David Fizdale believed that Robinson would need to spend time in the G League to fully develop his skill set. Now that he’s in the starting lineup for the New York Knicks — not the Westchester Knicks — Fizdale is rethinking his plan to send Robinson down to the G League for seasoning.

“One thing about [Robinson] that I’ve noticed is he picks stuff up quick,” Fizdale said to Marc Berman of the New York Post. “For a guy that didn’t play a whole year of basketball, man, he absorbs stuff fast and he applies it to the game pretty quickly. I’m looking at our team and I’m looking at our future, and we understand that to build the organization and the team that we want, we got to be a defensive-minded team, and Mitchell Robinson is a superior natural defender, so I just felt like let’s get this generated now.

 

“He’s going to be our foundation, our anchor of our defense for the future. Let’s get this guy going right now and really commit to the development of these guys and to what it’s going to take to get them to where they need to be for us to be the team we’re going to be later.”

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Robinson is the perfect fit for David Fizdale’s system and it won’t get nearly as much attention, but he could be a nice fit alongside Kristaps Porzingis. A starting frontcourt featuring a polished Robinson and a healthy Porzingis is the best-case scenario for the Knicks.

It would give the Knicks two lengthy shot blockers and two consistent lob threats in the pick and roll. Not to mention, Robinson’s presence in the starting lineup would ensure that Porzingis plays a bulk of his minutes as a power forward — a position he has an affinity for. Late in games, KP could flex to the five spot in small ball lineups.

The biggest question mark regarding this vision for the future is whether or not Robinson can develop into a consistent enough rebounder. Porzingis is at his best when he’s alongside a big who can clean the glass and corral rebounds while Porzingis protects the rim on defense and looks for his shot on offense.

It’s clear that the coaching staff and Fizdale, in particular, are becoming more confident in Robinson. They appear to be leaning towards letting him stay in the starting lineup for the foreseeable future.

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