New York Knicks: What will Mitchell Robinson look like as a finished product?

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) /

The New York Knicks have an interesting player moving forward in Mitchell Robinson. What is his upside?

Most New York Knicks fans can agree that there have been few bright spots this season – as we journey into the final portion of the season, the team has one of the worst records in the league. Aside from the prospect of landing the top draft pick and the possibility of rounding up star free agents this summer, one of the only other reasons to be excited about this squad is their young roster teeming with upside. One of those players is neophyte rim runner Mitchell Robinson.

Robinson has been an unlikely revelation this season: after being drafted in the second round with no college-ball experience, the big man has had a breakout rookie campaign. He’s currently leading all rookies in blocks and is third in blocks in the entire league, while cruising to numerous highlight reel dunks in the process. He even posted nine blocks in a single game in a loss to the Orlando Magic. It’s starting to look like he has the potential to be a rim-running, defensively gifted big man in this league for years to come. This begs the question: what does Mitchell Robinson’s future in the NBA look like?

Let’s start by summarizing Robinson’s player profile and analyzing his stats. From there, we’ll then take a look at comparisons to more established NBA players based on these numbers and skills to get a glimpse of what sort of player he could end up looking like.

Player Profile

If you’ve tuned in to even just a few Knicks games this season chances are you will have seen Mitchell Robinson’s prowess on the hardwood. Coming into the 2018 draft, he was described as an “imposing interior presence with his combination of length and athleticism scoring at a strong rate around the rim and blocking shots in bunches.” Robinson is an intimidating figure on the court for opposing offenses and at times looks like the biggest player out there: he has a 7-foot-4 wingspan and a 9-foot-3 standing reach.

His rookie campaign statistics to date reflect this. Robinson is averaging 6.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and an eye-popping 2.3 blocks in just under 19 minutes of action. This translates to some truly impactful per 36 minutes numbers: we’re looking at 12.7 points, 9.9 rebounds and 4.4 blocks.

Not only would this be good enough to be leading the league in blocks by a country mile this season, but this puts him in a rare air historically speaking: this would put him as the seventh highest blocks per game league leader ever, in the same conversation as Dikembe Mutombo and David Robinson. Put that together with hyper-athletic alley-oops like this one that are a dime a dozen for Mitch with his energetic rebounding efforts (per 36 minutes he’s already in the top 10 for offensive rebounds per game) and then it appears that you have a rim running beast on your hands.

“I think he has a tremendous upside…I see a lot of similarities in our game,” crowed Knick legend Marcus Camby, in a piece penned by the New York Post’s Marc Berman. That glowing endorsement again begs the question: what more established NBA players could Robinson look like in future, based on his game and stats to date?

NBA Player Comparisons

Aside from the retired Camby, which current NBA players could Mitchell Robinson potentially emulate in a few years from now?

Based on his performance so far and his game, it’s fair to say that his strong suits are the following: blocked shots/rim protection, explosive athleticism and offensive rebounding. Through watching game tape at a first glance, one could easily draw the comparison to the following 5 players:

  • Clint Capella: Plus shot-blocking ability, athletic offense and offensive rebounding.
  • DeAndre Jordan: Ridiculous athleticism and dunks, instant energy on both ends of the floor.
  • Tyson Chandler: Master shot-blocker and alley-oop machine.
  • Javale McGee: Explosive rim runner and athletic shot swatter.
  • Rudy Gobert: They don’t call him the Stiffel Tower for nothing.

Now let’s take it a step further: although Robinson could be compared to these guys from a quick look at their highlight reels, are their stats actually comparable?

Courtesy of Basketball-Reference, we can do a statistical comparison of all six players’ (including Robinson) rookie seasons to see how their numbers stack up. Given the wild variation of minutes players receive in their rookie seasons, the following looked at the players’ per 36 numbers for consistency.

These numbers are extremely encouraging for Mitch’s career prospects. According to the data, out of the six players, he ranks first in blocks per game by almost a whole block ahead of Capela; first in offensive rebounds; first in steals and first in field goal percentage. He ranks third in points, fourth in total rebounds and second in assists, right in the middle of the pack amongst these established veterans.

The only causes for concern are his defensive rebounding and foul numbers, which he clocks in at last and first, respectively. These have been cited as weaknesses in his game, the latter of which he has already started to address in the second half of the season.

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The exciting part about Robinson’s NBA future is that he could possess a combination of all of these players’ skill sets – he has similar (if not better) stats at this stage of his career and has qualities that emulate every single one of these guys’ games. He really is one of the bright spots of the 2018-2019 Knicks season: if he can even be close to as good as any one of these guys, The New York Knicks brass have a franchise cornerstone on their hands for years to come.