After another evaluation of the fracture in his right hand, New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson will be out for four to six weeks.
The New York Knicks are going to need to figure out how to replace Mitchell Robinson. The third-year center was forced to leave Friday’s game early and we soon learned that he had a fracture in his right hand.
Upon re-evaluation, Robinson is going to undergo surgery and is likely to miss four to six weeks recovering. The news was first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
ESPN Sources: Knicks center Mitchell Robinson will undergo surgery on his fractured right hand and is expected to miss four to six weeks. Robinson suffered a fracture of the fourth metacarpal on the hand on Friday night vs. Washington.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 13, 2021
Robinson’s eventual return is likely to take place between March 13 and March 27. He will likely miss between 17 and 22 games with this injury. That’s a huge chunk of time for the Knicks to be without their defensive anchor.
So, that begs the question, how will the Knicks replace Robinson in the lineup? Here are a few options.
Nerlens Noel-Taj Gibson Tandem
Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson are solid options to replace Robinson. They are both veterans who can hold their own as starters or on the second unit. Noel is more comparable to Robinson, given his rim protection and athleticism. But Gibson is the savvy big who can act as the glue defensively even if he doesn’t provide the same shot-blocking ability.
And of course, we all know that Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau has complete faith in Gibson after their many years together. Since re-signing with the Knicks, Gibson has been behind glass in case of injury, but Thibs has shown no hesitation to go with him if either center is missing.
In all likelihood, Thibs is going to distribute the minutes between Noel and Gibson based on who is playing better on any given night. However, there are other options at the five.
Knicks Small-Ball Centers
While small ball has become a mainstay around the NBA over the last five years, the Knicks still tend to play bigger lineups with traditional centers and big power forwards. Their defensive identity starts with protecting the paint so it makes sense that they like to have a rim protector on the floor at all times.
With that said, they have experimented with Julius Randle as a small-ball five at times this year. What they lose in rim protection, they make up for in a sleeker offensive look. With Randle at the five, Thibs can put another shooter or ballhandler on the floor. In the right matchups, this could be very effective while Robinson recovers from his injury.
Another option for a small-ball look would be Obi Toppin. The rookie has not played major minutes this year, but this could be an opportunity to carve out a larger role in the rotation for the Dayton product. He might struggle defensively, but it’s worth it to give the rookie a chance to prove himself.
The Knicks should have more than enough on the current roster to survive without Robinson for the foreseeable future. There’s no need to look to the trade block or buyout market for a replacement. Perhaps in a week or two the Knicks might re-evaluate the center rotation, but for now, they have plenty of options.