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Unpacking the Mystery of Mitchell Robinson

Photo: USA TODAY Sports

New York’s second-round pick, Mitchell Robinson, remains a rather mysterious figure despite his achievement of playing in the McDonald’s All-American game. Who’s Mitchell Robinson?

Coming out of high school, Mitchell Robinson was well on his way to ending up in the 2018 draft lottery. He was the second-best shot blocker in Nike youth league history—right behind Nerlens Noel—and looked every bit the part of a star along with big men Mohamed Bamba and DeAndre Ayton in the McDonald’s All-American game. He was ranked the no. 11 recruit coming out of high school and was set to attend Western Kentucky University.

What happened next severely shook Robinson’s draft stock.

After a series of dropouts from Western Kentucky, Mitchell Robinson spent the season away from organized basketball before being drafted by the Knicks with the 36th pick in the second round.

According to Robinson, he spent the season working out every day from 9-5, and as Scott Perry added during the rookie’s introductory press conference, New York’s brass was acutely aware of who Robinson was working out with. 

After skipping the NBA combine, Robinson represented something of a wild card to teams coming into the draft. In all likelihood, organizations wanted to avoid the risk of drafting a player they didn’t know enough about. That, along with some prominent red flags (such as spending much time away from organized basketball), led to his slip into the second round.

Though the Knicks have never been an organization associated with bringing the best out of players, David Fizdale’s developmental staff has a great opportunity to change that perception around the league with the incredibly raw Robinson, who only started playing organized basketball in 10th grade.

Let’s look at what Mitchell Robinson can bring to the table.


First things first, Robinson is a physical specimen. Standing at 7’1″ with a 7’4″ wingspan and a 9’2″ standing reach, Robinson has rare athletic abilities and explosiveness for his size. He’s 233 pounds as of draft day, but Mitchell’s wide frame suggests that he can stand to pack more muscle onto his EXTENDO limbs. He runs the floor gracefully with long strides and possesses some serious hops.

Just watch him flex his physical gifts in this video of him dunking with one dribble from the OPPOSITE three-point line:

In addition to his physical potential, Robinson has displayed impressive intuition when it comes to timing, especially on things like rim runs, shot blocking, and putback dunks. He seems to instinctively know when to jump and what angles to take to the rim.

He also has good hands when it comes to catching the ball and being able to put it into the hoop off lobs. However, his basketball I.Q. and general court awareness still need some serious work.

He didn’t shoot all that much in high school, but his shot mechanics look fairly fluid from the grainy footage and empty gym workout clips. He gets nice rotation on the ball and has a high release point. It’s hard to tell how that will translate, but Robinson possesses good fundamentals to work with.

While he displays good timing and strides like a gazelle, Robinson looks a bit uncoordinated. He isn’t comfortable on the block and doesn’t have the best handles, but he has shown a willingness to dribble it a bit (mostly in the gym, as we have yet to see how that will translate to a game setting). Mitchell plays straight up, with his hips a little bit too high, and struggles to create good positioning for himself when boxing out. However, against high school and youth league competition, he never really needed to have great positioning for his rebounding and putbacks. His great timing, along with his size, made it easy for him to get rebounds—even when being boxed out by an undersized high school player. 

Robinson’s high hips also represent a problem on defense, as he routinely gave up deep post positioning at the lower levels. He was overpowered by stronger guys all the time and relied on his wingspan to block their shots over the top. He’ll need to learn to stay lower at the NBA level and use his hips correctly to make sure he doesn’t get bullied on the block on either end of the floor.

So what do we have in Robinson? He’s the wild card of this draft class, and potentially checks every box in the hallmarks for a modern NBA center. He is lengthy, athletic and explosive, and possesses ideal shot-blocking skills and rim-running instincts, along with the potential to step out and shoot the three. Despite those positives, it will take a good amount of time for him to be molded into the best version of himself. He is behind the developmental curve, given the fact that he was raised in a situation that lacked some of the resources many of the other top recruits had access to, and he only started playing basketball four years ago.

He’ll need a lot of work with the Knicks’ pumped up developmental staff, and I expect him to spend the better part of this season in the G League. But if the Knicks display patience by giving him guidance and a defined role, he may turn out to be the biggest steal of the draft.

If you really want to get giddy about Robinson, here’s what the sage DraftExpress’s Mike Schmidt had to say about the young prospect’s future in the NBA (per The Woj Pod):

“I think in two or three years, Mitchell Robinson could be at the same level as Deandre Ayton or Mohamed Bamba.”

Peep this pre-draft workout and you decide for yourself how good Robinson can be.

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