A disappointing loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in the In-Season Tournament quarterfinals shouldn't take away from the New York Knicks' recent play, as Julius Randle has rediscovered how to score, and the Knicks have rebounded from an inconsistent start to stand at 12-9.
No one is looking at the Knicks and seeing a title contender, however. Jalen Brunson is a legitimate All-Star kind of player, and Randle has two recent All-Star nods of his own, but there is no Top-20 player on this roster, and the players that are here don't fit together in the best of ways. The ground is fertile for a trade, either to sharpen up the current roster or a big swing for a star player who can step into that No. 1 role.
Which players on the roster should be their first pick to be included in a trade? Which players do they need to make every effort to hold on to in any deal? Assuming everyone agrees that Brunson is invaluable and Evan Fournier is expendable, let's look at five rotation players and ask a more difficult question: which are expendable, and which are invaluable and can't be included in a trade?
No. 5: Mitchell Robinson is expendable
Mitchell Robinson is an absolute beast on the glass, inhaling offensive rebounds and gifting the Knicks new possessions. His ability to keep possession broke the Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs last season, and it has helped to prop up a Knicks offense that has had long moments of frigid shooting this season.
If you look under the hood, however, Robinson has some very real flaws as a high-minute center. He averages an eye-popping 5.4 offensive rebounds per game but only 5.1 defensive rebounds. His turnover rate is quite high for a center. Despite taking nearly all of his shots from point-blank range, his 57.6 percent field goal percentage is below average among other short-range centers.
The most concerning statistic for Robinson, however, is his rim protection. He averages a healthy 1.4 blocks per game, but opponents shoot 48.6 percent on shots where he defends, which ranks well outside the inner circle of rim protectors. Isaiah Hartenstein, his backup, limits opponents to 42.7 percent shooting when he is the closest defender.
When Robinson steps onto the court, the Knicks defend 3.2 points per 100 possessions worse than when he is off the court. Robinson is a valuable player, but he isn't the elite defensive force he seems to be, and with Hartenstein, a more than competent center behind him, trading Robinson in the right move is not out of the question.