New York Knicks: Can Mitchell Robinson become another Tyson Chandler?

New York Knicks Mitchell Robinson (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
New York Knicks Mitchell Robinson (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Mitchell Robinson has been looking like a steal for the New York Knicks after getting selected 36th overall in the second round, and to me, brings about a similar game to a former All-Star.

It’s been a nice stretch of games watching the chemistry between Mitchell Robinson and his New York Knicks teammates further as he missed time due to a groin injury. We can see the high ceiling on the defensive side, and we are beginning to see the foul woes diminishing each game. It is still an apparent flaw in his game, but will I have no doubt we will see improvements once he puts on some muscle and gains more professional experience.

But the main assessment and comparison in the rookie big man’s game come from a familiar face in the Los Angeles Laker, Tyson Chandler, who wreaked havoc as the Knicks’ defensive anchor from 2011-2014 for the Knicks, as he became an NBA All-Star and a Defensive Player of the Year. Before his stint with the Knicks he won a championship as the starting center for the Dallas Mavericks in a battle against the Miami Heat and their big three.

There are a lot of similarities between the two big men both in their journey to the NBA and in their respective playstyle. Like Robinson, Chandler never played a collegiate game and was drafted straight out of high school to the Los Angeles Clipper, and then traded to the Chicago Bulls.  Though not important in play style, Robinson’s draft pick was a result from the Carmelo Anthony trade to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Chandler’s career had a bit of a slow start to his career as his minutes were cut to around 20 minutes per game and wasn’t a full-time starter until around the 2005-06 season, his last season with the Bulls.

The former Bull was still one of the most efficient offensive rebounders and was one of the highest percentage shooters due to his high-percentage, close-up shots in the paint. If fans remember, he actually lead the league in field goal percentage with the Knicks in the 2011-12 season at 67.9 field goal percentage.

A took some time before the former NBA Defensive Player of the Year reached his pinnacle, but when it finally happened, he became one of the most feared centers to anchor the paint. It was his offensive game that had its limitations, similar to what we see in Robinson at this point in his career.

But with that being said, Robinson has the potential to become a better offensive player than Chandler has ever been, especially with the modern emphasis coaches put on big men to shoot and spread the floor more often.

For now, Robinson has been most efficient offensively in second-chance buckets and pick and rolls, but has not developed much in the way of a back to the basket or face-up shot for his offensive repertoire. His explosiveness and overall athleticism are good indicators of improvement as long as he can sustain those characteristics as he puts on weight.

Regardless, Robinson has been shooting 67.8 field goal percentage displaying the similar efficiency Chandler has posted while in the league. The sample size and shot selection is evidently limited and not qualifying to rank among lead leaders, but it’s still an encouraging statistic.

Robinson was still a year removed from organized basketball after dropping admission from Western Kentucky and deciding to train in the offseason with his trainer Marcell Scott. His strength and conditioning will need improvement to stay in the game for a prolonged period of time without foul trouble, but was an expected speed bump coming into the NBA.

With that will also come with improvements to Robinson’s rebounding game, who showcased his rebounding potential in the NBA Summer League. This isn’t against the best talent the NBA offers, but is against players of Robinson’s size and stature at the center position.

Though Robinson was drafted in the second round, his draft used to be similar to that of Chandler’s before dismissing from school. The Knicks’ big man was third in his position and ranked 11th overall (one down from Kevin Knox) in incoming college freshman according to ESPN’s 2017 Recruiting Database. The two centers ranked ahead of Robinson were DeAndre Ayton and Mo Bamba, drafted first and sixth overall respectively.

With this being noted, the ceiling is there for Robinson. It’s all a matter of being patient and allowing his body to develop as he plays catch up to some of the big men drafted ahead of him with collegiate experience. The shot blocking and overall defensive tendencies are there as he’s putting up 1.9 blocks per game along with 0.7 steals in 16.9 minutes per game.

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As long as he keeps working with NBA trainers and nutritionists to fill out his long frame, he could have a career that is on par, or better than the New York Knicks’ former center in Chandler.