The links between the Chicago Bulls and pending free agent center, Mitchell Robinson, are growing stronger by the day. Following The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor linking the Bulls to the New York Knicks big man, we now have a better idea of where they stand in his pursuit.
That has not always been the word going around league circles.
But it does fit in with what Bulls vice president of basketball operations, Arturas Karnisovas, has said since the trade deadline: continuity breeds the results that the Bulls seek. And that their improvement will largely come on the margins, where Robinson would fit rather nicely.
Rumor Mill Picking Up
The chatter around the 7-foot Robinson began last season ahead of the trade deadline. At the time, the New York Post’s Marc Berman reported that the Bulls were in trade talks for the former 36th-overall pick but got cut off in the final 24 hours.
He also said that the Knicks were running the risk of losing him for nothing by not trading him.
Now, he says that the Bulls continue to show interest and could be the “main competitors” to poach Robinson this offseason if the Knicks cannot re-sign him by June 30.
The Bulls want to enhance their interior defense and believe Robinson could be a good fit slotted alongside offensive center, Nikola Vucevic.
This is not all about the Bulls, or even the Detroit Pistons who Berman said are also not likely to pursue Robinson this summer following the NBA Draft Lottery. The Dallas Mavericks were also rumored to be interested in a center such as Robinson this offseason.
An NBA source said Dallas is not expected to be interested in Robinson at his hefty price tag…and have their sights set on cheaper free-agent centers.
That is at least two of the teams linked to Robinson. But there are still teams such as the Charlotte Hornets who are also in need of a strong presence in the paint.
Worth the Price of Admission?
Robinson averaged 8.5 points and 8.6 rebounds with 1.8 blocks in 62 starts over 72 appearances last season. While not career-highs, the numbers represent a bounceback from the previous campaign.
In his best pro season, the former Western Kentucky Hilltopper averaged 9.7 points with 7.0 boards and 2.0 blocks.
His career-high for blocks in a single season is 2.4 per contest.
That is also far off from the four-year, $55 max deal that it would take to keep Robinson out of free agency or the $10.3 million mid-level exception the Bulls will have at their disposal.
Berman reports that the Knicks remain unsure of giving Robinson a second contract.
The Knicks main concern is how…Robinson will respond if he gets a lucrative long-term deal. Maturity has always been an issue with the 2018 second-round pick from Louisiana.
Robinson posted the second-worst defensive rating (112.6) of his career, per Cleaning the Glass. But he also posted the best offensive rating of his four years in the NBA while playing in his most games to date.
Possible Hidden Nugget
Berman’s choice of words here is interesting. Saying the Bulls are intrigued by Robinson’s potential fit “alongside” Vucevic could very well be nothing. Or it could hint at the Bulls looking to lean into a double-big lineup with Vucevic playing power forward.
Vucevic has very limited experience at the four spot – just 3% in his career, per Basketball-Reference — while Robinson has none.
The Bulls did experiment with similar looks this past season, playing post-All-Star break acquisition, Tristan Thompson, alongside Vucevic. It did not go well with those groupings posting a minus-35.1 net rating across 55 possessions, per Cleaning the Glass.
Thompson’s offensive rating (119.9) was better than Robinsons’s. But he nearly gave it all back on the other end with a 118.4 defensive rating.
Perhaps Robinson can build off of what Thompson showed in the more favorable situation with the Bulls. The fit next to Vucevic would still be interesting. Robinson does not fit the mold of the centers that we have seen thrive on the final four teams of these playoffs, either.