With the team’s primary pivot and defensive anchor Mitchell Robinson sidelined for a minimum of three weeks due to a right thumb fracture, many expected the New York Knicks to struggle during the initial portion of his absence from the rotation.
Friday night’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks was a prime example of what a Robinson-less Knickerbockers squad could prove to look like.
Tom Thibodeau’s club was out-hustled, outpaced, and, ultimately, outplayed by their conference rivals, as they were bested by the Hawks by a final score of 139-124 while allowing four players to drop 17 or more points, one of which being star guard Dejounte Murray who ended the contest with 29 points on a highly efficient 56% shooting from the floor.
Following the game, Knicks star Julius Randle addressed the media where he got brutally honest when discussing the team’s efforts, or lack thereof, particularly on the defensive end of the floor.
“I don’t think on the defensive end they felt us at all and it was just too easy. They were in a rhythm all night…We didn’t stop the ball in transition, pick-and-roll we weren’t great. You know, (we were a) step late when they kicked out on closeouts and gave guys like (DeAndre) Hunter and (John) Collins and (Bogdan Bogdanovic) shots and they stepped up and made them so we didn’t do anything well, to be honest,” Randle said.
When asked what the Knicks need to do moving forward to make up for their now weakened defensive unit, Randle stated that they “need to be tied in together” and that “when we’re all on a string and playing for each other then we’re good.”
Since the beginning of December New York has proven to be one of the best defensive units in the entire association, ranking seventh in defensive rating at 111.8.
However, the main catalyst for their tremendous production on the less glamorous side of the floor has been the 24-year-old Robinson, who ranks first on the team in both defensive rating and defensive box plus-minus while ranking second in defensive win shares on the season.
His absence has already led to an uptick in playing time for guys like Isaiah Hartenstein and Jericho Sims, the latter of whom received the starting nod against Atlanta.
Knicks Could Target Bucks Veteran
Though the simplest solution when it comes to filling in Robinson’s now vacated minutes within the rotation would be to promote from within, some believe that the Knicks could look to the trade market to address their now hampered big man rotation.
Should this happen, SNY’s Ian Begley believes that the front office could set their sights on Milwaukee Bucks big man Serge Ibaka.
“Three weeks is a big big chunk of time, especially at this point in the season when you’re approaching the trade deadline. I wouldn’t expect the Knicks though to fold up the tent and start to tank for the upcoming draft, this team is not built that way…If the Knicks look elsewhere for options, you know, Serge Ibaka with Milwaukee is certainly an option if you’re looking for a replacement during Robinson’s absence,” Begley said.
A key member of the Toronto Raptors during their 2019 NBA Championship run, Ibaka has made a name for himself as being a lethal rim protector and a reliable frontcourt floor spacer throughout his 14-year NBA tenure and finds himself boasting impressive career averages of 12.0 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game on 51.3% shooting from the floor and 35.9% shooting from deep.
Currently residing in Milwaukee, the 33-year-old has seen the DNPs racking up in 2022-23, and, as of January 20, it has been reported by The Athletic’s Shams Charania that both he and the organization have agreed to find a trade suitor for his services before the February 9th deadline.
Considering the Bucks have been an oft-mentioned possible trade partner for New York this season due to their reported interest in estranged forward Cam Reddish, perhaps the two sides could work together to find a trade that benefits both parties involved.
Knicks’ Asking Price for Reddish Revealed
Friday evening, Ian Begley gave an updated look at what the Knicks are looking to receive in a possible deal involving fourth-year pro Cam Reddish and, by all accounts, it appears as though they’re willing to take back considerably less than what they initially shelled out to acquire him via trade last season.
“It’s worth noting that teams in touch with the Knicks say they are seeking a second-round pick in return for Reddish in a trade,” Begley wrote.
On January 13 of last year, Reddish was traded to the Knicks in exchange for 2018 lottery pick Kevin Knox, a protected future first-round pick, a 2025 second-round draft pick, and cash considerations.
Since arriving in New York the 10th overall selection from the 2019 NBA Draft has played just 35 games with the franchise and has posted measly averages of 7.4 points and 1.5 rebounds per game on 43.8% shooting from the field.