Mitchell Robinson: Extend him this offseason
Coming off the second anniversary of his first contract in the NBA, the second round pick is eligible for a contract extension before the 2020-21 season begins.
If the Knicks want to dictate the terms of re-signing Mitchell Robinson long-term, while doing so before his stock rises too high, their best option might be to offer him an extension this offseason.
Robinson’s 2020-21 non-guaranteed salary cannot be renegotiated, but the team can get to work this offseason by declining his fourth year club option and extending his contract by 2-4 seasons. They can also opt-in to his club option and add up to three years to his existing deal.
By declining his fourth year option, New York can offer a maximum four-year, $56 million contract extension (projected by using an estimated average salary of $10.4 million in 2021-22) that would dwarf the $1.8 million he is due to make in his existing team option year. Of course, there are realistic scenarios (which I will cover in a bit) that could see Robinson earn a bigger payday by waiting to sign an extension, but there is also the risk that he doesn’t make much higher than a league minimum salary until 2022. He might want to secure a windfall of guaranteed money sooner than that.
With plenty of cap space to work with, the Knicks can also get creative in offering Robinson a large bonus amount (up to 15% of the total extension value) that would bring the total value of the extension closer to $65 million. The corresponding $8.5 million bonus can be paid immediately and spread evenly over the five years remaining on his existing and extended contract, alleviating some of the cap hit.
By signing Mitchell Robinson to an extension this offseason, New York could operate in good faith that the maximum amount they can offer is reasonably close to his current market value.
Cap expert Danny Leroux recently speculated that $15 million is a reasonable annual figure for the young center, while admitting that number could quickly change based on Robinson’s performance.
A max extension (including a bonus) would pay Mitch an average annual salary of about $16 million over the four years added to his original contract. Of course, the Knicks can also negotiate a more team-friendly deal for less money that could include an option year, or partially-guaranteed amounts.
Again, by offering an extension this offseason, they are in a better position to dictate the terms.
By waiting until next offseason, Robinson would become eligible for a much larger contract which could force the Knicks into overpaying him due to market dynamics. At that point, the Knicks could exercise his 2021-22 club option and renegotiate his salary (currently only $1.8 million) to a higher amount (up to approximately $22 million), and then build a four-year extension off that.
The Knicks could also decline his 2021-22 team option and treat him as a restricted free agent in 2021, which we will talk about next.