The Knicks have played well entering the stretch run of the NBA season. After winning the last two games of its West Coast road trip, New York is 11-3 in its past 14 games.
The team has been all good vibes for the most part. But after Tuesday’s comeback win at the Portland Trail Blazers, starting center Mitchell Robinson took to Snapchat and vented about his role.
“Tired asf of just being out there for cardio fam like I want to play basketball to really just wasting my time and energy,” Robinson said.
He later addressed the comments Friday on Instagram. The Knicks did not make him available to reporters after the team’s Friday practice.
Robinson’s comments place a spotlight on how the Knicks’ center position has done this season.
For the most part, Robinson has been a consistent presence as a starter while his backup, Isaiah Hartensteinhas been solid.
Third-string center Jericho Sims has also shown flashes when he’s filled in as both a starter and a reserve.
Here’s a look at how all three big men have performed, with 11 games left in the regular season.
In his fifth year with the club, Robinson’s been a presence in the middle. He’s seventh in the NBA’s block rate. On offense, he mainly handled the role of finisher and offensive rebounder. Robinson currently leads the NBA in offensive rebound rate (17%).
After Robinson’s social media comments, fans may have been quick to call out his lack of a hook shot or his failure to convert on free throws. It obfuscates why Robinson’s individual offensive numbers have taken a dive and he’s posted his lowest scoring season (7.5 points) since his rookie campaign.
Robinson’s scoring is reliant on his teammates — 60.2% of his field goals come off assists. If he’s not scoring off the pass, the only other way the big man is scoring is on the offensive glass.
Last in overall assist rate, the Knicks are near the bottom of the league in every pass-related statistic. New York is fourth in isolation frequency according to NBA Stats.
Robinson is a lob threat and it feels like the Knicks rarely hit him on alley-oops. The center has recorded 35 alley-oop dunks or layups this season in 1,337 minutes this season. During his second season (2019-20), Robinson recorded 88 alley-oop finishes in 1,412 minutes.
Despite how little the Knicks pass the ball, the offense has thrived. New York is ranked fifth in offensive efficiency mainly because of how effective it is Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle have been in isolation. The team as a whole scores 1.00 points per possession in isolation, which ranks seventh in the NBA.
For Robinson, his role as a defender and rebounder won’t change in the near future, but the Knicks could make small concessions towards sharing the ball and finding him more often.
When the Knicks first signed Hartenstein this past offseason, there was hope that he could add a different skillset to the center position. Hartenstein was a great passer at his position and had flourished making reads out of the high post. He even flashed an outside shot, making 14 of 30 3-point attempts (46.7%).
As this season has worn on, Hartenstein has shapeshifted into a much more physical big under Tom Thibodeau. Hartenstein’s assist rate is a career-low and he’s attempted just five triples since the start of 2023.
Hartenstein has mixed it up in the paint. In the last 10 games, he recorded at least three offensive rebounds on six different occasions.
Like Robinson, Hartenstein has also seen dips in scoring with the Knicks recently. Although he ended up playing most of the fourth quarter in three of the past four games at center, Hartenstein scored just nine points in 94 minutes and 24 seconds of game action.
Sims hasn’t played much since Robinson’s return from injury. Although he’s shooting 76.9% from the field, Sims rarely shoots, taking fewer than five field goal attempts per 36 minutes.
Sims is in a similar position to Robinson as a big that relies on passes from teammates or offensive rebounds to score. He will continue to remain as a great third option at center and insurance for Robinson who has missed at least 10 games in four of his five seasons.