The New York Knicks appear to have a Clint Capela clone in Mitchell Robinson, but is the comparison fair for the incoming rookie?
The New York Knicks have earned rave reviews for the selection of Kevin Knox at No. 9 overall in the 2018 NBA Draft. Knox was one of the standout performers from Summer League, as evidenced by the fact that he was named to the All-Summer League First Team.
For those who watched all five games that New York played in Las Vegas, however, it was center Mitchell Robinson who proved to be the star of the show.
Robinson was one of the few players who was active in every game for the Knicks. He made waves on the defensive end of the floor, and proved to be a dominating interior force on the offensive end.
While Summer League can only tell us so much, comparisons immediately surfaced between Robinson and Houston Rockets center Clint Capela.
For those unfamiliar, Capela is an individual who has emerged as the face of one of the modern molds for play at the center position. Despite not having range beyond the paint, he’s carved out a significant role on a contender.
Capela has done so by establishing himself as as big who can rebound, protect the rim, work the pick and roll, and defend the perimeter.
The latter trait is the most elusive at the center position, as many big men lack the agility or footwork to switch on to quicker players. That includes the ability to work the pick and roll, which has become one of the most prominent plays in the NBA.
Robinson hasn’t yet proven himself against an NBA-caliber set of competition, but his physical tools scream versatility on the defensive end of the floor.
Capela, 24, finished the 2017-18 regular season with averages of 13.9 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.3 offensive boards, and 1.9 blocks in 27.5 minutes per game. On a per 36 minutes basis, he averaged 18.2 points, 14.2 rebounds, 4.3 offensive boards, 1.2 assists, 2.4 blocks, and 1.0 steal.
Capela also shot 65.2 percent from the field, which speaks to the efficient nature of his shot selection—a crucial trait for a non-scorer.
Those are lofty standards for Robinson to meet, but his Summer League production is certainly in line with what Capela managed to do in 2017-18. He posted averages of 13.0 points, 10.2 rebounds, 4.0 blocks, and 1.0 steal while shooting 66.7 percent from the field.
The context is that it was in Summer League, but those nearly identical averages certainly support the upside comparison to Capela.
Furthermore, Capela and Robinson are eerily similar from a physical perspective. Robinson was measured at 6’11” with a 7’4″ wingspan and a 9’3″ standing reach, while Capela checks in at 6’11” with a 7’4.5″ wingspan and a 9’2.5″ standing reach.
Capela’s half-inch advantage in wingspan is offset by Robinson’s half-inch lead in standing reach—thus bordering on identical physical gifts.
The final variables of the equation will be three defining traits: Basketball IQ, strength and conditioning training, and work ethic. Capela has bulked up considerably since he entered the NBA, and has developed an excellent understanding of how to play angles.
Capela has also addressed a previous flaw of having stone hands down low, and has decreased his fouls per 36 minutes average in each of his four seasons.
For Robinson, nothing will matter more than bulking up by strengthening his core. Opponents will struggle to get by or over him, but bruising post players still have the ability to put their shoulder into him in order to create space.
He has strong hands already, and has a deep and downright impressive understanding of the game. Limiting fouls will be crucial, however, as he committed an average of 4.8 personal fouls per game at Summer League.
The final hurdle will be utilizing his work ethic to develop a more well-rounded offensive skill set, which includes the ability to play from the post and consistently knock down the outside shots he practices.
Acknowledging the reasons for skepticism, if Mitchell Robinson puts in the necessary work, there’s reason to believe the New York Knicks will have found their own Clint Capela—with new layers of offensive versatility.