New York Knicks: Should Mitchell Robinson still be in the team’s long-term plans?

New York Knicks Mitchell Robinson (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
New York Knicks Mitchell Robinson (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

Mitchell Robinson should still be part of the New York Knicks’ long-term plans. 

Before the season, there was no question that Mitchell Robinson was a highly-valued player for the New York Knicks and that he sat squarely in the long-term future plans of the team. However, with the team’s recent success, and with Robinson’s absence and regression to a certain extent this season, you can’t help but wonder if that has changed at all.

Over the last couple of weeks, the Knicks have risen to the occasion during the push for the playoffs. New York is in the midst of their longest winning streak in years (winners of six-straight) and is tied with the Boston Celtics as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference standings.

With 14 games remaining on their schedule, New York is inching closer to securing its first playoff berth in eight years.

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While a big portion of the team’s success this season falls on the shoulders of Julius Randle (and his breakout, all-star season) and the continued development of RJ Barrett, there’s another player that has taken advantage of his opportunity in Robinson’s absence due to injury: Nerlens Noel.

Since becoming a starter and registering a defined role in the rotation, Noel has averaged six points, seven rebounds, and two blocks per game on 66 percent shooting from the field. He’s been a defensive pillar for the team and has had a hand in surviving without Robinson this season.

Question is, does that make Robinson expandable?

Well, that’s tough to answer, but let’s look at the facts.

First, let’s talk about Robinson. He’s a 23-year-old 7-footer that is extremely versatile on both ends of the floor. He leaves much to be desired on the offensive end and, at times, could be a liability on that end of the floor. Still, he was productive in the 31 games he played in this season before his injury.

Robinson averaged eight points, eight rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game on 65 percent shooting from the field – his numbers slightly dropped from last year to this season, but he was still valuable to the Knicks.

Second, Robinson has a team option for next season but could be extended to a long-term contract during the offseason if both sides agree to a deal. Third, assuming the Knicks would favor Noel over Robinson (27 years old), the former is a free agent this summer and will likely be seeking a long-term extension.

In short, a decision from the Knicks likely has to come sooner rather than later.

An argument could be made that Noel put up similar numbers to Robinson during his absence, but would New York be willing to part ways with a 23-year-old center that still hasn’t come close to reaching his potential for a 27-year-old center that has pretty much topped out as an NBA player?

It might be easy to fall in love with the “what have you don’t for me lately” theme of today’s NBA and sports as a whole. However, this is just another example (and potential test) of what the Knicks have to avoid.

In the past, this is a move that New York absolutely makes. However, as the team continues to build, this team needs to realize that moves they decide to pull the trigger on must reflect on what they expect the team to look like 2-3 years down the line. Not now.

The Knicks hit on Robinson late in the second round of the 2018 NBA Draft. Nothing has changed. Even though Robinson has been out of sight, out of mind recently, this is still a prospect that they have to follow through with.

New York can’t afford to get caught up with this year’s success. It’s a good step in the right direction, but if this team is going to reach its full potential in a few years, Robinson is a piece of that puzzle.

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This season should already be considered a success for the Knicks. And even though he’s likely done for the season, Robinson should absolutely still be valued by the team and considered a key part of this team’s long-term plans.