Mitchell Robinson was playing the best basketball of his career before getting hurt. He’s also foundational to how the Knicks want to play. So what now?

Everybody knows Mitchell Robinson is out and will be for a long time. The timetable for his return is 8-to-10 weeks, according to the Knicks. So how has life without Mitch been so far? Well, the Knicks’ loss to the Clippers this past Sunday marks four games since Robinson went down with his foot injury and if you’ve been paying attention, he is sorely missed. The absence of his defensive presence is glaring and the effects of that are being felt strongly and immediately.  

The most obvious area the Knicks are being exposed is around the rim; opposing offenses are feasting in the paint without the “Blockness Monster” patrolling. Prior to losing Robinson, the Knicks were allowing just 44.7 points in the paint per game, the sixth-best mark in the league. In the four games since he went out they’ve allowed at least 50 a night, including 60 points in the paint in back-to-back games against the Suns and Clippers. 

Opponents are also shooting better overall percentages without Robinson anchoring New York’s defense. It’s still a very small sample size but the difference can’t be ignored: the Knicks were holding opponents to 47.5% shooting from the field with Robinson, but since he’s been out teams are shooting 50.3%. a change that would sink them from 19th to dead last in the league.

The three-pointers have hurt as well. Before Robinson got sidelined New York was holding opponents under 40% shooting from the deep, now they’re hitting the over. The only saving grace is that the Knicks have been able to keep up with the offensive production without their big man. In Robinson’s absence, opposing teams are averaging a whopping 128.3 points per game against the Knicks compared to allowing just 108.7 with Robinson, which was the third-best mark in the entire NBA. If they want to keep their heads above water, they have to find a way to get stops.

Robinson’s greatest skill is perhaps his ability to rebound the basketball. He leads the NBA with 5.3 offensive boards per game. The Knicks were taking full advantage of this, ranking second in the league in second-chance points. While it will take some time to see how Robinson’s ability to keep possessions alive for the Knicks will manifest with him out, the rebounding numbers overall are already being affected, the Knicks were averaging 46 rebounds per game with Robinson in the lineup; a top-five rebounding team. Since he’s been out that number has dropped to 41.3, the seventh-work mark in that timeframe. The slight decline in rebounding isn’t all that alarming but it’s trending in the wrong direction for one of the top rebounding teams in the league.

It isn’t necessarily time to panic for the Knicks, it’s only been four games. But, for a team that has been one the better defensive groups in the NBA they’ve looked very pedestrian without their anchor. What New York has going for though is their depth, they’ve been able to adjust on the fly when a player misses time. The Next Man Up mentality that has served the Knicks well in the past is needed now more than ever. 

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