Mitchell Robinson rumor an unfortunate reflection of the nature of the NBA

The New York Knicks could have a decision to make at the center position. The latest rumor reflects the unfortunate nature of the NBA.
Charlotte Hornets v New York Knicks
Charlotte Hornets v New York Knicks / Elsa/GettyImages

The New York Knicks are at the proverbial roster crossroads entering the 2024 period of free agency. New York has the enviable position of having two starting-caliber centers in longtime stalwart Mitchell Robinson and the surging Isaiah Hartenstein.

With Robinson under contract, Hartenstein entering unrestricted free agency, and the potential reality of not being able to afford both hanging over his head, Leon Rose has a decision to make.

Robinson, 26, has been with the Knicks since they selected him in the second round of the 2018 NBA Draft. He's preparing to enter the third season of a front-loaded four-year, $60 million contract, with a bargain of a cap hit at just $14,318,182 for the 2024-25 season.

With this in mind, it stands to reason that the Knicks could re-sign Hartenstein, even if it comes at a slightly less affordable cost.

Unfortunately, the NBA has altered its salary cap rules in an effort to prevent the construction of big threes and superteams. That could, unfortunately and perhaps inadvertently, impact teams that have taken the approach of building deep and balanced rosters.

The Knicks are at the front of the line in that regard—and one of Hartenstein or Robinson could be on their way out because of the fear of the financial restrictions paying both could create.

The Knicks are exploring the Mitchell Robinson trade market

Hartenstein is expected to command a large market for his services coming off of a breakout season in 2023-24. The Oklahoma City Thunder are one of the teams that are expected to make a run at Hartenstein as they look for answers in a period of free agency that's relatively thin at the center position.

In response to the possibility of losing Hartenstein, the Knicks are exploring what options are available to them. That has, unfortunately, resulted in trade rumors that have left fans of the orange and blue up in arms.

According to Jake Fisher of Yahoo Sports, the Knicks are exploring the trade market for Robinson as they prioritize the re-signing of Hartenstein.

"Hartenstein, at this moment, is now generally expected to return to New York, as the Knicks have contacted opposing teams about moving Mitchell Robinson, sources said. "

Ian Begley of SNY has reported similarly, but made it a point to state that the Knicks aren't necessarily eager to ship Robinson out.

"In New York’s conversations with teams about potential moves, Mitchell Robinson’s name has come up. I don’t get the sense that the Knicks are fully committed to moving Robinson at the moment."

Many have opted to sound the alarms, but it's important to remember that this is what a general manager is supposed to do.

Knicks president Leon Rose is just doing his job

It's easy to respond to trade rumors with some form of excitement or anger. Whenever they come about, however, it's important to remember that nothing of true significance is actually occurring until a deal has been formally offered—or at least negotiated.

In the case of the Knicks exploring the market for Robinson, president Leon Rose is simply doing the job that he's been tasked with.

Front offices should always be in the know in terms of what their players can fetch on the open market. It's an essential part of the job that enables executives to operate with a full scope of the value of their players in the eyes of those around the NBA.

It might not be the most appealing part of the NBA experience as a fan, but it prevents front offices from either over or undervaluing their players in a potential trade.

As such, this could be much ado about nothing. The Knicks could retain Robinson on his team-friendly deal, re-sign Hartenstein, and move on to trying to get OG Anunoby to return to New York on a deal that both sides would be happy with.

It's never easy to see a fan favorite appear in trade rumors, but keep in mind that a front office can only know their value in potential negotiations if they ask.