Nov 4, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson (26) is fouled by Washington Wizards center Dwight Howard (21) during the first half at Capital One. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports


Schmeelk: How Do The Knicks Get The Most Out Of Mitchell Robinson?

John Schmeelk
March 13, 2019 - 1:36 pm

At 13-55, three games worse than any other team in the NBA (as of 10 p.m. Tuesday night), and only 14 games remaining there isn’t much left to say about the Knicks season. It is far more interesting to look ahead and discuss the draft lottery, college prospects, and potential free agent targets.

We will certainly do that in the coming weeks, but there are some recent developments with the actual team and their young players that are worth exploring.

1. David Fizdale has an unhealthy obsession with Emmanuel Mudiay. He put up good numbers against the Pacers on Tuesday night (21 points on 14 FGA), but in the three games prior Mudiay had five assists to thirteen turnovers and shot 7-19 from the field. He is the only player on the roster that has trouble finding Mitchell Robinson on pick and roll plays, yet Fizdale continues to give him more minutes with Robinson than Dennis Smith Jr.

He is a free agent after the season and no better than a backup point guard, even with his improved play this year. The obsession needs to end once and for all. If Frank Ntilikina ever returns from his groin injury, under no circumstances should Mudiay be getting minutes instead of him. You can argue the team would be better off playing Kadeem Allen. It is to the point that I wouldn’t be surprised if Mudiay is back next season, which wouldn’t make a lick of sense.

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2. The Mudiay issue would be less egregious if Fizdale was actually starting the Knicks best player: Robinson. Fizdale claims he doesn’t want to take Robinson out of his comfort zone coming off the bench, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. In a lost season with Robinson playing his best basketball, it is the perfect time to challenge him to see if he can do more. Robinson is a shot blocking and rebounding machine and starting him wouldn’t change that.

It would also get him on the court with Smith Jr., Damyean Dotson and Kevin Knox, which are three of the players the Knicks control the rights of next season and are part of their long-term plans. Seeing how those future players play and mesh together should be the only real goal the Knicks should have the rest of the season and for some reason, Fizdale isn’t letting that happen.

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3. The bright side is that Robinson is still awesome and creeping up the list of top rookies this year. He has had three or more blocks in four straight games and has shown substantial improvement as a rebounder. He is even doing better catching lower passes from guards on the screen and roll. His instincts as a defender are elite, and blocks more jump shots than any big man I have ever seen.

In his last 6 games, Robinson is averaging around 10 points per game, over three blocks and around nine rebounds in just over 23 minutes a game. He has the best net rating on the team of players that are a regular part of the rotation. Robinson is a game-changing defensive player that would fit perfectly next to offensive-oriented free agent starts that could come in the summer.

When the NCAA tournament starts next week, I’ll have the same prospect guide I did last year to give fans a nice breakdown of who they should be watching and when they are playing in the tournament.

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