Should Knicks consider moving Mitchell Robinson when he becomes trade eligible?

Mitchell Robinson, New York Knicks (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Mitchell Robinson, New York Knicks (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

One of the main topics of conversation surrounding the New York Knicks after making it a quarter of the way through the regular season has revolved around their depth at center. New York re-signed Mitchell Robinson in free agency, signed Isaiah Hartenstein in free agency, and converted Jericho Sims’ two-way during the offseason.

A few weeks into the season, Robinson suffered a knee injury in a 106-104 win over the Sixers on Nov. 4. He didn’t play again until Nov. 20. In his absence, Knicks fans got a look at Hartenstein and Sims in the starting lineup. With no Mitch, some fans began to wonder if the Knicks would be better off without him.

Because Robinson re-signed using Bird rights, he can’t be traded until Jan. 15. The question is — Should New York consider parting ways with its starting center ahead of the February deadline?

Knicks center Mitchell Robinson will become eligible to be traded on Jan. 15

To answer the above question… Absolutely not. Just because the Knicks have depth at center doesn’t mean that the front office should try to offload the four-year, $60 million contract that Mitchell Robinson signed a few months ago.

Robinson’s major flaws are that he lacks an offensive skillset and gets into foul trouble. He’s struggled with injuries as well, but that isn’t something that he can control. However, it is something that is of concern, but Mitch did play in a career-high 72 games in 2021-22.

He’s coming off his best game of the season, too. In Sunday’s loss to Memphis, Robinson finished with 16 points (6-of-7), seven rebounds, and five blocks in 32 minutes. He shot 4-of-7 from the free throw line, which is the most that he’s been to the charity stripe this season. Per usual, his defensive interior presence and impact on the boards stood out.

Behind Robinson on the depth chart should be Sims, who’s only in his second year in the league. He’s a better defender and rebounder than Hartenstein, but the former Clipper has an offensive skill set that the other two centers don’t have. Tom Thibodeau hasn’t been able to optimize Hartenstein’s skills as a player though, which is why the big man is averaging less than an assist after averaging 2+ assists in the previous two seasons.

And while we’re on the topic of Thibodeau, he opted to play Hartenstein over Sims against Memphis, with the latter not playing at all. That was surprising given the fact that Sims has played well recently and he would’ve matched up better against Steven Adams than Hartenstein.

Although Hartenstein and Sims have both shown flashes of strong play this year, the Knicks would be worse off if they traded Robinson. But he is making $17 million this season and you can certainly argue that the Knicks haven’t gotten anywhere close to their money’s worth out of him yet.

In his first two games back after being injured, he played in a combined 30 minutes, but on Sunday, he played in a season-high 32 minutes. It’s clear that Mitch is no longer trying to work his way back after being sidelined for a couple of weeks, so let’s see what he’ll be able to provide in the team’s upcoming challenging stretch.

As long as Mitchell Robinson can stay healthy, New York will benefit from his presence in the starting lineup. There’s a reason why he didn’t leave in free agency.