Why has Mitchell Robinson been struggling this season?

Mitchell Robinson shined for the Knicks as a rookie. Now the center is struggling in his sophomore campaign, what changed?

Mitchell Robinson was expected to have a breakout sophomore season, but so far he has failed to live up to the expectations. Many, including myself, believed he was the Knick with the highest ceiling of all their young players. Improvements were expected but instead Robinson has struggled to break out.

Last year Mitchell Robinson averaged 7.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks but despite having his rookie season under him, the center’s numbers remain stagnant. Through 44 games the sophomore has averaged 9.6 points 6.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. Overall Robinson’s number remained stagnant but the evidence is glaring.

His minutes have risen to 22.7 minutes per game, only up 2.1 minutes from his rookie, and fails to start on a team with just 12 wins. So why has Robinson not taken the next step in terms of being the starter or getting more minutes?

Only Head Coach Mike Miller can give us the full details, but the numbers tell us a part of the story.  According to basketball reference, we can see Robinson’s impact on the court has dropped off from last year. During Robinson’s first season opponents shot 3% better against the Knicks when the rookie was on the bench.

This season Robinson’s impact isn’t making the same effects. The Knicks’ defensive rating sits at 113.2, with or without Robinson on the court. .

Some of that has to do with Robinson trying to contest everything, which has led to teams shooting 14.5% worse at the rim but grabbing nearly 8% more offensive rebounds, which has translated into Robinson being a negative on the defensive side of the court.

This has led to the inconsistency in the Robinson’s playing time, as he is not having the same impact on defense and Robinson’s offense is much of the same, with only three shots outside of the paint this season.

Robinson’s defense has a chance to improve this season as these first 44 games could just be an outlier. Regardless, Robinson needs to get a better handle on when to contest and when to stay back and focus on rebounds, but the offense is still lacking. Robinson has attempted 225 of his 228 shots in the paint, basically nothing but dunks and layups. Sure he is shooting 70%, which is 13% higher than the league average but many of Robinson’s attempts are high percentage dump offs, lobs or put-backs. He is still lacking the ability to score with his back to the basket with nearly 70% of his field goals coming off of assists.

Not having a natural playmaker on this team hurts the growth of Robinson but also brings to light that he needs to add more to his offensive bag to stay on the court. This missing piece is one of the main reason’s Taj Gibson is starting and playing 16-20 minutes a game, stealing minutes that Robinson should be receiving.

After analyzing Mitchell Robinson through the first 45 games, it is easy to see that the defense drop off is a direct effect of him trying to contest too many shots and still struggles with fouls, averaging almost six fouls per 36 minutes. On offense he still is a good target when put in pick and roll but the lack of any other abilities really limits Robinson’s offensive potential. Teams know they sag off of him as he cannot create for himself or is looking to shoot.

Until that part of his game improves, he will always be a role player that can occasionally put up big games who will always play inconsistent minutes. The flashy dunks and blocking three pointers were nice for a year but going forward more substance is needed if Robinson is to break through as the New York Knicks’ starting center.