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There’s a light ahead in the dark tunnel for the Knicks
In a tumultuous season for the New York Knicks, there aren’t many positives. Earlier today, the Los Angeles Clippers added to the Knicks misery with a 128-107 thumping at the Staples Center. New York was never in the game and fell behind by almost 40 points before halftime. Despite the blowout loss, there was one positive for the Knicks. This positive has been fairly consistent for the orange and blue since mid-February. That positive is Mitchell Robinson.
The Knicks franchise has been a laughing stock for years, but recently, the vibe surrounding the organization has changed. One of the reasons for this change is the newfound competence of the front office. Finally, gone are the days of the Knicks brass making rash decisions that plunges the franchise in basketball purgatory. Now, not only are those in charge placing the Knicks in a position to potentially become perennial winners, but they are also finding gems in the draft to help elevate the Knicks in the future.
Mitchell Robinson has been a surprise this season
First-round pick Kevin Knox has all the ability in the world to be a great player down the line. Unfortunately, he’s had a rocky rookie season. Undrafted free agent Allonzo Trier has also been a pleasant find, but he has struggled for consistency in his play lately. The one shining gem that has stood out is the second-round pick, Mitchell Robinson.
Many didn’t know what to expect from Robinson coming into the season. He skipped his freshman year of college and opted to train for the NBA. In other words, he didn’t play organized basketball for a year. When summer league came around, Robinson looked raw in his play. The potential was evident for everyone to see, but it was clear he needed time to adjust to the NBA game. Sure enough, he has.
Improved balance has helped Robinson become a better defender
One example of his improved play has been the balance in his movements. In the summer league, he covered a lot of ground on defense, but he seemed unbalanced when he moved. Technically speaking, if he was to guard a player of Kyrie Irving‘s ilk, more than likely his ankles would need insurance. Today, against the Clippers, his improved balance was evident.
Late in the first quarter, he was guarding Lou Williams off the pick-and-roll. Williams crossed from right to left and drove to the basket hard, before being tripped. At one point, it seemed like Robinson might touch the earth, or in other words, fall. Instead, he regained his balance and stuck with Williams until the referee stopped the play to call a foul. In addition to his wingspan bothering opponents, now Robinson is showcasing the quickness and balance to hang with guards.
Consistency has helped lift Robinson’s game
Robinson’s improved balance is one key component in his play. Another is his consistency. At the beginning of the season, like most rookies, Robinson struggled to put in a consistent performance every game. Also, it didn’t help that he would often get into foul trouble, which limited his playing time.
Since the arrival of DeAndre Jordan via trade, Robinson has transformed into a new player. In his last seven games, he’s averaging 11.4 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 4.0 blocks per game. Also, he’s third in the league in blocks, averaging 2.3 per game, and he leads the league in blocked three-point attempts with 15.
The most impressive fact about his league-leading 15 blocked three-point attempts is that he has more than Ben Simmons and Jrue Holiday, who are both perimeter players that play almost double the minutes Robinson has logged.
At this moment, Robinson is doing everything right. He’s setting good screens, and he’s learning to read the defense to know when is the right time to roll to the basket. Consistently, he’s finishing lob passes at the rim and emphatically dunking on anyone who dares to challenge him in the paint. Robinson’s ability to finish lobs is reminiscent of Jordan, during his time playing for “Lob City” with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Also, he’s crashing the boards with authority.
Everyone is invited to Robinson’s block party
Last, but not least, his ability to block shots is borderline legendary at the moment. He had a nine-block game against the Magic in November, a six-block game against that same Magic team last month, and numerous four or five block games. Even today, against the Clippers, he rejected four shots, including a nasty rejection at the rim on Montrezl Harrell‘s dunk attempt. At the moment, Robinson is playing like the main man amongst men.
After all, Robinson does have four double-doubles in his last seven games.
Robinson is the hero Gotham needs
Robinson isn’t a franchise changing player, in the sense of transforming a team into a winning team overnight like LeBron James. Even though that’s not the case this season for the Los Angeles Lakers, but that’s a topic of discussion for another day. Instead, Robinson is a player that can transform a team’s defense. In today’s NBA where defense is virtually non-existent, having a player like Robinson is invaluable. Therefore, the Knicks have to keep him at all costs.
In the Dark Knight, Jonathan Nolan stated: “…he’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now.” In the Knicks case, Robinson is the hero Gotham doesn’t deserve but needs right now.