Knicks center Mitchell Robinson is reportedly trying to incorporate three-point shooting into his game—which has only included near-basket shots.
Discounting free throws, that’s the longest shot distance from which Mitchell Robinson has converted in the NBA so far.
Robinson is many things. A First Team All-Defense type prospect. A truly elite athlete, even at the pro level. But a long-range shooter, he is not.
Mitchell Robinson showed off some touch from 3 tonight. Definitely has skill potential to tap into. Will benefit from focusing on being a dominant shot blocker, rim runner, lob catcher, and rebounder first then build out the rest of his offensive game. pic.twitter.com/uLcG9ebbxj— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) May 31, 2018
Plenty of big men are comfortable shooting in workouts, as Robinson displays here. It’s a structured environment; he knows exactly where and how he’ll catch the ball, plus it’s an unguarded shot that he can repeat over and over again, without consequence. In other words: not indicative of a true game setting whatsoever.
Still, the mechanics aren’t terrible! And Robinson was a fairly confident shooter in high school.
For whatever it’s worth, I very much dislike this sort of exercise—where basketball heads dissect and pick apart a young player, elevating their expectations into impossible strata. Mitchell Robinson, in no way, needs a three-point shot. He already projects as a franchise-altering big man, a specialist so elite at what he does (rim running and deterring) that he will be a major plus for his team in almost every matchup imaginable.
So I find it strange that we always do this to guys like Robinson. He’s not, nor will he ever be, a high-volume sniper from deep like a Brook Lopez. In imposing such unnecessary dimensions onto Robinson, we create a greedy fantasy that threatens to plague his development—a fabricated future in which he retains his greatest strength while also eradicating his most glaring weakness.
And if someone like Robinson is unable to keep pace with this speeding-bullet hype machine we’ve attached to him, we tarnish his incredible contributions with “Yeah, but imagine how good he’d be with a jump shot.”
It is farcical. It is moderately damaging to his reputation. It is a bad habit that should, for the most part, be eliminated from water-cooler sports banter.
But damn …
Imagine how good Mitchell Robinson would be with a jump shot.
And believe it or not, there is some evidence that he has a decent foundation. He wasn’t shy with his J back in high school, as previously mentioned. He’s remarkably fluid for a seven-footer, with a certain level of coordination that belies his size (not unlike Anthony Davis in that regard, whom Robinson wishes to model himself after).
Perhaps most important in projecting his shooting ability is his rapid improvement in free-throw shooting over his rookie season. Before the All-Star break, Robinson was hitting just 51.5% from the line. After the break? That figure improved to 68.1%, on almost an identical number of attempts.
Again, there is no need for Robinson to add a jump shot to his game. He’s already on track to become a championship-level role player. That type of prospect is invaluable.
But if he could learn to shoot?
Well, then you’re talking about a potential All-NBA level star. There won’t be many big men who can match his two-way versatility. He will be completely matchup-proof.
Play small-ball against him, and he has the foot speed to run your shooters off the three-point line, while still recovering at the rim with his length and leaping ability. On offense, his size and threat of the lob become an overwhelming advantage against shorter humans.
Counter with a traditional frontcourt, and he’s already proven more than up to the task of manning the paint with his impeccable timing and competitiveness. Now, if he could space the floor on the other end?
He would be a mismatch against literally every team that does not employ Anthony Davis or Joel Embiid. (Giannis Antetokounmpo could feasibly guard him too). On the flip side, you would be able to play Robinson in every scenario. There is not a single way in which he could be “played off the floor.” Bulletproof.
By the way, if it weren’t for Robinson’s own admission that he wants to add the long-range shot next season, this would all be irresponsible speculation—pure stretch-5 fetishization. The man took only three shots from outside the paint, for Christ’s sake.
But, in Robinson’s own words, he “wants to shoot threes,” so we kind of need to have this conversation. And if we’re going to have this conversation, then it behooves me to take a deep breath and say,
Imagine how great Mitchell Robinson would be if he could shoot threes.