The 2020-21 season has been pleasantly surprising for the New York Knicks. While their record is still below the .500 mark at 12-15 after defeating the Washington Wizards, there is some optimism surrounding the organization.
Head coach Tom Thibodeau is getting the most out of the roster he has to work with. There are some weaknesses, such as point guard, small forward and 3-point shooting, but the Knicks have done well to overcome them so far.
New York is playing a gritty style of defense predicated on their defense their fans have been begging for since the days of Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, Anthony Mason and John Starks in the 1990s. Thibodeau was an assistant coach on some of those teams and he knows what it takes to bring a winner to the Big Apple.
So far this season, Thibs has gotten his guys to buy into the system. New York is one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, giving up the fewest points per game (103.9), holding opponents to an NBA worst 32.3 3-point percentage and are in the top five in defensive rating.
One of the reasons for that has been the development of center, Mitchell Robinson. Robinson, who was selected in the second round of the 2018 NBA Draft after not appearing in a college game at Western Kentucky, was raw but oozing with potential. He has shown flashes of being a dominant defender but his lack of experience was holding him back. This season, he was finally putting it all together.
Robinson committed three or more fouls in 45 of 56 games as a rookie and fouled out eight times. In his sophomore season, it was 40 out of 61 games with seven foul outs. Through 26 games this season, Robinson has zero foul outs, reaching five fouls only once and recording at least three fouls 18 times. His discipline has been much improved, but he suffered a setback against Washington.
Robinson, who was in the midst of an outstanding game with 10 points, 14 rebounds, two steals and one assist in 20 minutes, fractured his right hand. He will be re-evaluated over the weekend, but this sounds like it will be a multi-week absence for Robinson.
The Knicks had been lucky when it came to injuries thus far this season. Their starting lineup had the same five people in 21 out of 26 games, with only Reggie Bullock missing time and being replaced by Alec Burks three times and Austin Rivers twice.
Without Robinson, Thibodeau will have to make some adjustments to the rotation. Who will become the new starting center? Who will come off the bench? Here are five players that will be impacted the most by Robinson’s injury.