NY Knicks: Who can they sign to replace Mitchell Robinson?

NY Knicks, Obi Toppin, Mitchell Robinson (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
NY Knicks, Obi Toppin, Mitchell Robinson (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

NY Knicks starting center Mitchell Robinson’s bad luck with injuries continue. After just four games back from an extended absence with a fractured hand Robinson landed awkwardly during the first quarter of the Knicks 102-96 win over the Milwaukee Bucks. Visibly in pain, Robinson hobbled off the court – the Knicks announcing shortly thereafter he had suffered a fractured foot.

This latest injury is a cruel blow to Robinson who had been a key contributor to the team’s success when healthy. His return to the lineup after missing 15 games with a fractured hand was a big boost for New York’s playoff hopes.

Robinson’s teammates were naturally upset for their young center after the game – perhaps none more so than veteran guard Derrick Rose who struggled for words upon hearing about the injury in a post-game interview with Mike Breen and Walt Clyde Frazier.

Here are the reactions from Derrick Rose, RJ Barrett, and Coach Tom Thibodeau postgame:

For the NY Knicks, it’s a tough blow that certainly doesn’t do their post-season chances any favors. New York can take some solace though from reserve big men Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson who have already proven their ability to step up in Robinson’s absence this season. Now, they’ll have to do it again.

NY Knicks: Who’s out there to replace Mitchell Robinson?

Prior to the injury, the team had been canvassing the market for some front-court depth. Andre Drummond had been one name linked to the Knicks, however, those rumors have died down of late as it appears he will sign with a contender. Drummond’s fit on the Knicks was always questionable and the team at Daily Knicks would not be too disappointed to see him sign elsewhere.

Outside of Drummond, New York had also been monitoring John Henson, Norvel Pelle, and the recently waived Gorgui Dieng – as reported by Ian Begley of SNY. Unfortunately for the Knicks, as of this morning, Gorgui Dieng intends to sign with the San Antonio Spurs. Let’s quickly take a look at some of those names mentioned above:

Norvel Pelle:

  • At 27 years of age, Pelle has yet to find his footing in the NBA. He spent last season with Philadelphia where he played sparingly. This year Pelle hasn’t secured a permanent spot on an NBA roster, he signed 10-day contracts with Brooklyn and Sacramento before being waived.
  • The 6’10” Pelle has played primarily in the NBA G League to date, where he holds career averages of 8.8 points per game (64% FG), 6.1 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks.
  • For the Knicks, Pelle would likely serve as frontcourt depth and insurance if one of Gibson or Noel were to miss time with injury.

John Henson:

  • The 30-year-old Henson hasn’t played in the NBA since last year’s season was shut down by the pandemic. He split that season playing limited minutes in Cleveland and Detroit.
  • Listed at 6’9″ Henson is a good shot-blocker for his size (1.4 blocks per game) but is limited on the offensive end. He has career averages of 7.6 points and 5.3 rebounds.
  • Much like Pelle, Henson’s potential role on the Knicks would be as a back-up to Gibson and Noel.

If the Knicks choose to pass on one of the above players there’s still a number of options on the market they could look at, including:

  • Tyson Chandler
  • Kyle O’Quinn
  • Jordan Bell
  • Dewayne Dedmon
  • Damien Jones

But there is one other name I’d like to raise here – Westchester Knicks big man Simi Shittu. The former Vanderbilt standout had an exceptional season for the G League Knicks, averaging 14.5 points and 10.1 rebounds in 26 minutes a night.

At 6’10” Shittu is a terrific rebounder and a high-energy big who runs the floor. He has a limited offensive game, but at just 21 years of age, he would present as more of a developmental piece, that if called upon could provide valuable spot minutes at the center position. He might just be worth a flier, if even on a 10-day contract initially. Here are some of his game highlights:

The injury to Robinson is unfortunate and no doubt presents a challenge for the NY Knicks. Just how much time he will miss is unclear at this stage. While Noel and Gibson have already proven more than capable at stepping up in his absence the Knicks would still be wise to add more depth at the position. They have options available to them, so remain tuned to see what the team ends up doing.

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