The Knicks hope that they hit the lottery with Kevin Knox, but their 36th pick is even more intriguing.
While some fans hoped that the Knicks might trade up in the 2018 NBA Draft, GM Scott Perry stood pat with the 9th and 36th picks and resisted the temptation to attempt any splashy moves. They passed on the biggest ‘boom or bust’ candidate in this year’s draft in Michael Porter Jr., who ultimately fell to 14 with concerns regarding his injury history. Picking Kentucky’s Kevin Knox and Western Kentucky’s Mitchell Robinson demonstrate that the Knicks are going all-in on Perry’s vision of prizing upside above all else, with an eye toward the 2019 and 2020 free agent classes. With star Kristaps Porzingis expected to miss most, if not all, of the 2018-19 season, newly minted head coach David Fizdale will be able to focus on developing the dearth of young prospects the Knicks now have on the roster.
Most fans and sportswriters are quick to discuss the pickup of Knox at nine, but the Kentucky product should fit the Knicks’ future goals admirably; under Fizdale, New York will look to emphasize youth, move toward a more ‘positionless’ roster, and attempt more shots from three-point range, which Knox should help contribute toward. While Knox is certainly expected to be the more prominent figure in the Knicks’ future (if all goes according to plan), Robinson provides an equally intriguing presence on their youthful roster.
Unlike Knox, whom Coach Fizdale has already floated as a potential starter this season, Mitchell Robinson’s role for the 2018-19 Knicks is more unclear. Much of Robinson’s immediate future will be determined by whether or not Kyle O’Quinn (who recently declined his player option) and Enes Kanter (who has yet to make a decision on his option) return to the team. If one or neither returns to New York next season, Fizdale could be able to carve out some minutes for Robinson to determine whether or not he can become a long-term piece. Joakim Noah may still be lurking on the roster somewhere, but his role is even less defined at this point. Regardless, Robinson will get his chance to show out during Summer League alongside Knox and second-year players Frank Ntilikina and Damyean Dotson.
First of all, there are a lot of tangible reasons to be excited to see what Robinson shows on the court. With his length and athleticism, he could fit well with the team’s ‘positionless’ philosophy. At 7’1”, Robinson has been touted by some as one of the most athletic bigs in this year’s draft. With this combination of length and bounce, there have been some comparisons to Kevin Durant (mostly in his shooting form), and the Knicks certainly hope that he can parlay that into regular playing time this season. Barring a stellar showing in Summer League, Robinson will most likely have to pay his dues in the G-League before he can make an impact for the big club.
The only numbers we can look at to are his high school numbers from Chalmette, Louisiana. In his senior year, Robinson averaged 25.7 points, 12.6 rebounds, and 6 blocks per game, en route to being named a McDonald’s All-American. He has demonstrated a natural affinity for shot-blocking throughout his playing career, and a frontcourt of Robinson and Porzingis would make opposing guards think twice about attempting layups. He is reported to have some range on his jump shot and a known ability to finish at the rim, so some ‘Porzingis-lite’ comparisons may arise eventually as well. Still largely an unknown to most basketball fans, Robinson’s pre-draft tribulations caused the prospect to go from potential top-20 pick to second-round mystery.
Mitchell Robinson is an intriguing player. He was a high school all American and averaged 20/13/8 in high school. Granted he skipped a year of college but he was a top 10 recruit. Nice pick for the Knicks— KnicksNation (@KnicksNation) June 22, 2018
Though New York is excited about Robinson’s upside, his promising skillset comes with some major questions. Primary amongst them is the fact that he has not played a competitive basketball in over 14 months…against high school players while participating in the Jordan Classic All-Star game. After a short stay at WVU, Robinson withdrew from college to prepare for the draft, a decision that almost certainly hurt his draft stock. Without knowing how a player performs against college peers or some time in an overseas league, NBA scouts have to do a whole lot of extrapolating about how an unknown quantity will play against professionals. Additionally, some have stated that he could stand to put on some muscle, and the NBA schedule will test Robinson’s conditioning moving forward.
Mitchell Robinson (Knicks No. 36 pick) only needs one dribble from the opposite three point line… incredible. pic.twitter.com/ATzWro4sQs— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) June 24, 2018
Like Kevin Knox, the Knicks chose to take a flyer on Mitchell Robinson on his upside. There are virtually no meaningful stats on which to judge the center, and comparable statistics make up a large portion of scouts’ abilities to judge how prospects will fare in the league. Right now, all we have on Robinson is high school game film and a number of empty gym workouts. In this way, he projects as the ultimate ‘boom or bust’ for New York; he can come out of nowhere to secure playing time on the youthful Knicks’ roster, or he can spend the majority of the foreseeable future with the Westchester Knicks. If he can shake off the rust and ease into the rigors of an NBA schedule, Robinson has the opportunity to surprise a lot of people.
Edited by Jeremy Losak.
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