While Mitchell Robinson passed his summer league test with flying colors for the New York Knicks, the verdict is still out on whether he will spend most of his winter in Westchester or in the Mecca.
New York Knicks’ rookie Mitchell Robinson took the summer by storm with his performances in the Las Vegas summer league. The 20-year-old Louisiana native, received high praise from NBA scouts and executives who witness him dominance after not playing competitive basketball in over a year. But with the Knicks having so many bigs on the roster, can he make the big league squad from the jump?
Robinson averaged just under 25 minutes per game as he posted 13 points on 66.7 percent shooting, and lead all of summer league with 4 blocks. If he is able to replicate any of those numbers during his rookie season, the Knicks will take that on the double with cheese. Robinson displayed the ability to become a rim-running center who can not only catch lobs and putbacks, but anchor a defense in the half court or transition. His is a fluid player, able to hedge on screen and rolls, then shuffle his feet to protect the paint. Look at this man’s reach!
Despite fellow rookie Kevin Knox shining in the spotlight, it is Robinson who can fulfill new Knicks’ head coach David Fizdale dream of length, length, and more length. After the Knicks first summer league game, Fizdale was asked about his impression of the young players on the roaster. When asked about Robinson and Knicks’ star Kristaps Porzingis playing next to each other, it was as if Fizdale was told the new iPhone was dropping later in the week. Skip over to 1:27 to see his reaction.
Robinson has received comparisons to Houston Rockets’ center Clint Capela, who just resigned with his team this offseason. And while the Rockets are pleased with the development of Caplea, he didn’t become a starter for the team until the 2015-16 season. His first season in the league he played 38 games for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers; the G-League affiliate for the Rockets. When Caplea did play for the big league squad, he averaged less than 3 points in the 12 games he played. It took Caplea basically two seasons to become the player he is now, so what exactly are fair expectations for Robinson this season.
"“I knew once they saw Mitchell on the court and saw all the stuff he brings to the table, the G-League would be eliminated from the conversation,’’ Scott told The Post in a phone interview. “I honestly think at the halfway mark, at the All-Star break, Mitch will be starting.’’"
That is some high praise for someone who last played an organized game of basketball in April of 2017. With all of Robinson’s physical traits and basketball instincts, his lack of basketball intelligence is what will hold him back from making the team out of camp. Despite averaging 4 blocks during summer league, he struggled with fouls throughout his Las Vegas run. Coach Fizdale isn’t going to let a player who can’t control his hands play in close games during the season. His “desire” to set screens needs to improve as he fails to create space for teammates driving to the basket.
These are all things that Robinson can improve on in the G-league. Despite all the Twitter jokes, last season the Knicks did a good job in developing players in Westchester. Trey Burke was basically out of the NBA until he spent some time in the G-league, and is now a candidate for the starting point guard job this season. With G-league Coach of the Year Mike Miller returning for another season, Robinson could do well with a coaching staff that has shown the ability to develop players.
The idea of having Robinson and Porzingis on the floor together to block out the sun is every Knicks’ fan wet dream; however, Robinson has a long way to go before he ready to make an impact on the court. With his lack of upper body strength and low basketball IQ, look for Robinson to make his Madison Square Garden debut sometime in April.