Bulls Rumored Trade Target Labeled One of the ‘Riskiest’ Free Agents

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The Chicago Bulls were reportedly interested in acquiring Mitchell Robinson in a trade near the deadline, per the New York Post’s Marc Berman, but couldn’t swing the deal with the New York Knicks.

The uber-athletic 7-footer will be a free agent at the end of the season, and some expect the Bulls to pursue him as a potential replacement for Nikola Vucevic. While Robinson’s size and athleticism are a no-brainer strong combination of physical talents, acquiring him comes with some pretty clear risks.

Mitchell Robinson is Labeled Risky

Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley labeled Robinson as one of the “riskiest big-money” free agents this offseason.

“Squint, and you can envision him anchoring an elite defense while making annual pushes for Defensive Player of the Year honors,” Buckley wrote. Robinson looks like a guy whose ceiling is somewhere between Rudy Gobert and Anthony Davis from a defensive standpoint, but he’s not at that level just yet.

“But the defense he anchors now is not elite (New York is 12th in defensive efficiency), and according to most metrics, neither is he,” Buckley wrote. “Defensive win shares and defensive box plus/minus both put him outside of the top 25. FiveThirtyEight’s Defensive RAPTOR ranks Robinson outside of the top 30. The 56.2 percent shooting he allows inside of three feet is good but not special for a high-volume interior defender.”

Even at the top end of his potential, Robinson doesn’t project as much of an offensive player, so him becoming an elite defender is paramount.

“That’s part of the rub with Robinson; if he’s not an all-caps DOMINANT defender, then how good can he be,” Buckley asks. “He’s neither a shooter nor a shot-creator, so he is restricted to rim-running duties on offense. Those are helpful to have, but not worth breaking the bank to get.”

Because Robinson is just set to turn 24 years old on April 1, it isn’t as if he doesn’t have time to continue to blossom into an elite defender. If development were the only concern, he probably wouldn’t have made Buckley’s list of risky free agents.

“That’s before taking Robinson’s history into account, which includes past problems with foul trouble and some injury issues, the worst of which limited him to 31 games last season as he suffered a fractured right hand and a fractured right foot,” Buckley added.

“If his ceiling convinces someone to give him an eight-figure annual salary, they’ll be taking on more risk than you’d like for an investment of that size.”

The Bulls could wind up being the team willing to pay Robinson that kind of money, and they will be hoping he hits his ceiling. It is important to note, Chicago will presumably have two elite scorers on their team in DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine (assuming he re-signs), which should take a ton of pressure off Robinson. If he simply rebounds, defends and rim runs like a maniac, he’d be a huge help and a potential upgrade over Vucevic whose slow feet and inconsistent jump shooting have been a problem for the Bulls.

Why the Bulls Need a Player Like Robinson

Vucevic is an excellent rebounder and good low-post scorer, but his lack of mobility on defense makes him a constant target in pick-and-roll situations. Having a more mobile big who can also be a more effective rim protector could be the medicine for what ails a Bulls’ defense that has slipped to 22nd in defensive efficiency.

If the Bulls can’t get Robinson, they desperately need a big man who can help to close some gaps left by the perimeter defense of less-than-stellar defenders like DeRozan and LaVine.


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