New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson already looks the part of an NBA superstar. Here’s a breakdown of why he’s been so impressive.
Tyson Chandler has never blocked 150 shots in a season. Clint Capela’s never done it either. DeAndre Jordan didn’t do it until he was 25.
Robinson has shown the potential to be one of the greatest shot blockers of all time. He’s the only player in NBA history to block more than 250 shots in two seasons while playing fewer than 3000 minutes.
The New York Post‘s Marc Berman accurately described Robinson as “a Knicks win in every way.” Mitch may have been a second-rounder, but he has the chance to be the organization’s best draft pick since Patrick Ewing.
Before you overreact, let me explain.
After spending a year away from competitive basketball, Mitch blocked 13 shots in his first 11 games before an explosion in game 12 against the Orlando Magic. He blocked nine shots during that matchup, more than any other rookie in Knicks franchise history.
Robinson started the game but picked up two fouls in as many minutes — within seconds of each other — and didn’t play again for the rest of the first half. The big man then picked up eight of his nine blocks in the second half.
Mitch blocked a couple of Nikola Vucevic hook shots, an Evan Fournier drive, and finally broke Kristaps Porzingis’ record with an impressive block of former Knick Jerian Grant.
Simply speaking, the potential is there.
How about that reaction for Robinson at MSG? The Knicks were down 30 on a Sunday afternoon in November against the Magic. That didn’t matter. Mitch still received a huge pop when he broke the record.
But plenty of big guys can block shots. Some dude named Michael Stewart blocked 195 shots when he was a rookie and 83 combined for the rest of his career. Robinson’s contributions to the Knicks go beyond just his elite shot-blocking.
Robinson is a massive contributor to the fact that New York is one of the league’s best offensive rebounding teams. The Knicks sitting at 24th in field goal percentage is the preeminent factor, but Robinson is a big help in those regards as well.
NBA Stats claims that 17% of Robinson’s field goals this season have come on putback layups and dunks. Robinson’s celebrated season of field goal percentage excellence can be attributed to his 76% conversion rate at the rim (87th percentile via Cleaning The Glass).
Speaking of converting at the rim — sitcom segway — let’s talk about the alley-oops.
According to NBA Stats, 88 of Robinson’s 253 field goals this season are alley-oops. During his rookie campaign, he recorded 58 of them. This whole thing was one long introduction to a nice alley-oop montage that everyone wanted to see.
According to NBA Stats, Robinson is fourth in total putback possessions and first in frequency. Mitch averages 3.5 second-chance points per game, which is ranked 10th in the league. His season average for points is 9.7 per game.
Thanks to those efforts, the Knicks as a team are first in second-chance points. We have to give Julius Randle his (small) props for that one, too.
Like any young player, Robinson possesses his flaws. He struggles against players that can push him around near the basket and also with guarding in the post.
Mitch is sometimes out of position defensively and could certainly improve in that department. He’s seventh in offensive rebound percentage but just 49th in defensive rebound percentage.
Robinson has more than enough potential to make this video seem irrelevant in a year or two, but this is him battling with Domantas Sabonis, Montrezl Harrell, and Vucevic.
The critics might say that Mitch carries a limited offensive game, considering he’s only made two shots outside the paint in his short career. But the “need” for him to develop a mid-range game is unnecessary. Do you know how many shots Rudy Gobert and Capela have made outside the paint over the last pair of seasons? Two — combined.
The big-man trio of Capela, Gobert, and Jordan all struggled to earn playing time early in their careers but took off in their third and fourth seasons. Mitch is ahead of his contemporaries’ timelines, which is a good sign.
Gobert and Jordan are All-Stars and All-NBA performers, while Capela has long served as a player for Robinson to emulate. Mitch is missing something that Gobert, Capela, and Jordan have already had — consistency within the roster, leading to direct chemistry.
According to NBA Stats, 342 of Gobert’s 353 made field goals this season have been a dunk or layup. I’m not a mathematician, but I’m pretty sure that’s a high percentage. Joe Ingles has assisted on 24% of Gobert’s field goals during the past three seasons. Gobert led the league in field goal percentage during the 2018-19 campaign.
With James Harden as his leader, Capela lived for the lob, and I doubt that will change with Trae Young in Atlanta. In Capela’s final four seasons in Houston, 45% of his field goals were assisted by Harden, and alley-oops have accounted for 25% of Capela’s career field goals. During Harden’s 2018 MVP season, more than 30% of his assists went to Capela.
Say what you want about super friend DeAndre Jordan now, but in his prime, he led the league in field goal percentage for five straight seasons. Jordan’s breakout happened to coincide with the arrival of Chris Paul. During their time on the Clippers, CP3 assisted on 28% of Jordan’s field goals.
Robinson has never played with a point guard of Harden or Paul’s caliber, and he’s never developed the type of chemistry with another player that Gobert has with Ingles. According to NBA Stats, in his rookie season, the player who threw the most passes to Robinson was Allonzo Trier. This season, it was Elfrid Payton. Wow.
Robinson is ahead of the timeline. He’s going to block a million shots just by being out there, but to become elite, he’ll need help. The former second-round pick can be great. The evidence is all there.