NY Knicks: Who Should Start – Mitchell Robinson or Nerlens Noel?

NY Knicks, Mitchell Robinson, Nerlens Noel (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NY Knicks, Mitchell Robinson, Nerlens Noel (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /
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NY Knicks, Mitchell Robinson, Nerlens Noel
NY Knicks, Mitchell Robinson, Nerlens Noel Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports /

Making the case for NY Knicks’ Center Mitchell Robinson

Mitchell Robinson is one of the most promising young stars on the Knicks and one of the brightest young centers in the league.

For the unacquainted, he led the entire NBA in field goal percentage in 2019-20.

Last season he was rather plagued by injuries only playing in 31 games, and because of that, it was also the first season that he averaged under two blocks per game.

That goes to show just good Robinson has the potential to be, especially on the defensive end of the floor where he is a demon.

Robinson has finished above the league average in defensive rating and defensive rebounding percentage every season he’s played in.

To take it a step further, amongst players who played at least 50 games in 2019-20, Robinson was top-5 in contested defensive rebound percentage.

Robinson also finished top-5 in the league in blocks each of his first two seasons.

All that to say he’s a fantastic defender, especially in and around the paint. Anyone who attacks the rim against the Knicks this year should prepare to have their shot spiked back the other way.

It’s on the offensive end where Knicks fans are still waiting to see Robinson blossom.

In 2019-20, Robinson averaged 9.7 points and in his 31 games last season, Robinson averaged 8.3 points. Nothing that leaps off the screen.

Despite his low-scoring numbers, Robinson can still be potent on offense.

At 7-feet tall and with a 7-foot 4-inch wingspan he’s always a lob threat and especially for his age he’s a good finisher around the basket.

As I mentioned before, getting some time in with Derrick Rose (and Kemba Walker) as his point guard will go a long way towards helping him shape his offensive game.

At least on the surface level, Rose’s passing ability should help to unlock Mitch even more on offense.

And to be honest he doesn’t need to be much of a scorer.

With Randle, Barrett, Rose, Burks, and new additions Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier all more than capable of putting the ball in the basket, efficiency and defense should be the main factors by which fans judge Robinson.

So where does all this leave Mitch in terms of minutes?

I don’t think there’s a whole lot of debate over who will be starting at center on Oct. 20 against the Celtics, after a full preseason, the job will surely be Robinson’s.

And at 23-years-old he needs to be both starting and playing to get any better. Robinson hasn’t even played 160 games in his career yet.

Thibodeau seems to agree with that sentiment, playing Robinson 27.5 minutes per game in his 31 appearances last season, four minutes more than he played the season before.

Much of this was before the emergence of Nerlens Noel, however, who finished last season averaging 24 minutes per game.

I think Thibodeau should continue in the direction he was going and give Robinson around 27 minutes per game.

He’s never played that much across a full season so it will give him more NBA experience than he’s ever gained in a previous season, as well as leave enough minutes for Nerlens Noel to make an impact off the bench.

This will be a big year for Robinson’s development, and he needs to continue to gain experience playing against the league’s best big men if he ever wants to become one.