Knicks Trade Proposal Flips ‘Available’ Center for Former Lottery Pick

Mitchell Robinson, New York Knicks

Getty Mitchell Robinson, New York Knicks

ESPN’s Chris Herring picked the Memphis Grizzlies as the ideal landing spot for New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson, whom he said “should be available in a trade.”

New York Knicks receive: Luke Kennard

Memphis Grizzlies receive: Mitchell Robinson

Presumably, the Grizzlies must add draft capital to convince the Knicks to part ways with their longest-tenured player.

Herring views Robinson as the perfect replacement for Steven Adams as the Grizzlies’ top offensive rebounder and a lob partner for their superstar point guard Ja Morant.

“In gauging the lost season and the franchise’s finances, the Grizzlies traded Adams to Houston. Absent Morant and Adams, Memphis fell to a pedestrian 13th in offensive rebound percentage this season.

Enter Robinson, who more or less lost his starting role to Isaiah Hartenstein after missing 50 games following a midseason ankle surgery, and should be available in a trade,” Herring wrote on May 28.

His trade proposal could give Robinson a fresh start in a team that badly needs his skillset. On the other hand, the Knicks could add more shooting around Jalen Brunson and an expiring contract that they can use as a salary ballast in a star trade or flip for draft capital at the trade deadline.

Kennard, the 12th overall pick in 2017, has a $14.7 million team option for this season, which the Grizzlies need to decide on June 29.

If they do this trade before June 29, the Knicks can waive Kennard and use the cap relief to re-sign both Hartenstein and OG Anunoby without fear of becoming an apron team.

Offensive Rebounding Machine But Injury Prone

Robinson has been the league’s leader in offensive rebounds for the past two seasons — unofficially this season after failing to qualify as a statistical leader due to his lengthy absence. He finished this season averaging 4.6 offensive rebounds, matching official leader Atlanta Hawks center Clint Capela.

Last season, Robinson (4.5) was the league’s best offensive rebounder over Capela (4.0). In the 2021-22 season, Robinson (4.1) finished second to Adams (4.6).

However, Robinson had myriads of injuries in his six seasons with the Knicks as their current longest-tenured player. He’s only played more than 70 games once in his NBA career.

The 26-year-old Robinson had a second surgery on his left ankle on May 13 after re-aggravating his injury that caused him to miss 50 regular-season games in the playoffs.

He will be re-evaluated in late June or early July.


Isaiah Hartenstein’s Free Agency

In Robinson’s absence, Hartenstein flourished. The Knicks’ former backup center Hartenstein averaged 9.1 rebounds, 8.6 points, 3.2 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.2 blocks in 64 starts, including the playoffs.

The 26-year-old German-American center is due for a massive raise after outplaying his two-year, $16 million deal he signed with the Knicks in 2022 free agency.

“I know I’ve put myself in a great position to get a little upgrade. I love it here, and hopefully, we’ll figure something out, but at the end of the day, business is business,” Hartenstein told Hoopshype’s Michael Scotto on April 5.

The Knicks have Hartenstein’s early Bird rights, meaning they can go over the salary cap to re-sign him. However, because of this, they are only limited to offering him a maximum of four years, $72.5 million, according to ESPN’s front office insider Bobby Marks.

Paying both Hartenstein and Robinson a combined $33 million annually with the impending massive raises for their top three players — Brunson and Julius Randle are eligible for lucrative extensions this summer while Anunoby could become their highest-paid player in a new contract — could hurt their roster building.

Moving on from Robinson and getting a backup center on a veteran’s minimum contract or from this year’s NBA draft could solve their financial crunch.

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