Knicks star Mitchell Robinson has a chance to make history.
The New York Knicks effectively ended their 2019-20 campaign with a 21-45 record. This is the 6th worst record in the league and represents the 7th straight season the team has missed the playoffs. The Knicks have plenty of time to take care of a lot of housekeeping items, including hiring a permanent head coach, rounding out the front office staff, and preparing for the various scenarios in the upcoming 2020 NBA Draft.
But one question that remains from the current season is whether Mitchell Robinson will make history.
Robinson currently leads the league with a 74.2% field goal percentage. Had the season ended entirely, that percentage would be the best single-season FG% of all-time, eclipsing Wilt Chamberlain’s record of 72.7%. Due to the COVID-19 shutdown, questions abound whether Mitch meets the statistical minimums to qualify as a league leader in the FG% category.
How will the league determine if Mitchell Robinson breaks the FG% record?
The nba.com website provides a glossary of statistical minimums to qualify as a league-leader in any particular category. Under the assumption of an 82-game season, a player would need to make 300 field goals to qualify as the league leader in FG%. Through 66 games, Mitch made 253 field goals. In the absence of a shortened season, Mitch would be 47 made baskets short of qualifying as the league leader.
What muddies the question even further is that most teams will end the 2019-20 season playing an uneven number of games. NBA teams played anywhere from 64-67 games at the time of the shutdown. For the 8 teams that won’t resume play, they’ll end up playing the following number of games:
- Charlotte Hornets: 65 games
- Chicago Bulls: 65 games
- New York Knicks: 66 games
- Detroit Pistons: 66 games
- Atlanta Hawks: 67 games
- Cleveland Cavaliers: 65 games
- Minnesota Timberwolves: 64 games
- Golden State Warriors: 65 games
As for the remaining 22 teams, they may end up playing anywhere from 72-75 games.
The league needs to determine the number of games that will become the baseline for qualifying as a league leader in any statistical category. Will the league go with the higher threshold (72-75 games) or will the league consider that nearly a 1/3 of the league played a shorter schedule (64-67 games)?
Since a full 82-game schedule is not attainable, perhaps the NBA evaluates league leaders based on the game-by-game statistic through a certain point of the season. This criteria is based on the number of games played by both the team and player. Through 64 games – the fewest number of games played by an NBA team – a qualifying player would need to play in 45 games and make a minimum of 235 field goals to qualify as a league leader in FG%. Mitch would qualify based on a 64-game schedule. Additionally, Mitch would breakeven and qualify even if the NBA increased the qualifying games from 64 to 69.
However, if the NBA determines eligibility based on a 72-game schedule, a qualifying player would need to make 264 field goals to become the league leader in FG%, leaving Mitch 11 field goals short or breaking Wilt’s record.
Mitch’s 74.2% FG% is also significantly higher than his second place opponent in Rudy Gobert (69.8%). After doing some rough math, Gobert would need to make at least 89 field goals without a miss over an 8-game stretch to become the league leader. Any missed basket would make it exponentially difficult to surpass Mitch. Gobert currently averages 15.1 points/game and clearly he’d need to average at least 22 points/game for the final eight game stretch against playoff contenders. It wouldn’t take a gambler to tell you Gobert’s chances to become the league leader are slim to none.
Therefore, this is the predicament that Mitch faces. There is the distinct possibility that he does not qualify as the all-time leader in the single season FG% through technicalities, no fault of his own. COVID-19 ruined what was possibly a straight shot towards breaking the record. And even if Mitch qualifies, pundits will diminish the feat due to the shortened season.
For Mitch, he should be proud of this feat and look forward to surpassing it in the next season without asterisks.