It’s starting to feel less and less likely that Mitchell Robinson will be making a return to the New York Knicks. Robinson seems to be on the way out, and it’s time to look at how the Knicks could replace him if he leaves in free agency.
Robinson, an unrestricted free agent, will have plenty of offers, and it seems like New York is not willing to bid high enough to keep him on the Knicks. I understand not wanting to pay him more than $15 million per year and even that is a stretch. For reference, Robert Williams recently signed a four-year, $54 million extension and has become much more established than Robinson.
Who can the Knicks replace Mitchell Robinson with this summer?
I recently mentioned that New York cannot afford to lose Robinson in free agencybut there is definitely a limit to where paying him too much is the worst option.
There are replacements out there that the Knicks can choose from, whether they want to stick to someone on the roster such as Nerlens Noel or Jericho Sims, while also being able to pursue free agent big men like Mohamed Bamba.
I’ve already discussed New York pursuing Bamba, who has shown major potential as a 24-year-old big man blocking one shot per game while shooting 38% from deep last season. Bamba’s big concern is reports of him not having a high work ethic, but I could see coach Tom Thibodeau clearing that issue up quickly.
The Knicks could also look at NBA Draft prospect Jalen Duren. Duren, a center out of Memphis, plays remarkably similar to Robinson. Duren is 6’11” and is one of the better athletes in the draft class, showing an adept ability to rebound and block shots while showing no future of ever becoming a shooter.
Duren is projected to go somewhere in the second half of the lottery, and with his potential, there is a good chance that he’ll be gone before New York has a chance to draft him. I would love to see the Knicks target Duren, and I would love it if he were to fall to them, as he has some of the highest potential in the lottery.
When you’re as athletic as Duren is and possesses the same amount of defensive potential, that is a steal at 11th overall. It’s also important to note that he will come in more polished than Robinson did, and Duren could be the starting center on opening day for New York in 2022-23.
With Donovan Mitchell reportedly eyeing the Knicks, New York should keep cap flexibility open. If the Knicks lose Robinson, it hopefully will be through a sign-and-trade deal, as getting nothing back for him would be a huge blow to the team. However, the worst thing they could do is pay Robinson anywhere upwards of $15 million per year.
If the Knicks are to make a move for the Jazz star, they should definitely attempt to make some sort of sign-and-trade deal with Robinson before that, as it could help them add on assets that they could send to Utah in exchange so that New York could try to get a new Robinson in the process.
It makes sense to fear the unknown, as the unknown could be bad. I fear the unknown of the Knicks’ big man rotation, as the known option is Noel, and he is actually bad. Hopefully, New York can either keep Robinson around or find a good replacement for him, whether it is in Bamba or Duren, or via some sort of trade.