Just 18 games into this NBA season, after struggling through last year with injuries, it’s fair to say that Knicks center Mitchell Robinson has not had the breakout that many might have expected. He is averaging 6.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks, modest numbers for a starter playing 25.4 minutes per game.
Despite that, Robinson is still expected to be among the top players in the free-agent Class of 2022, according to NBA front-office insider John Hollinger, the former Memphis Grizzlies executive who now writes for The Athletic. In his early season ranking of upcoming free agents, Hollinger has Mitchell at No. 12, right behind Cavaliers star Collin Sexton.
The Knicks can sign Robinson to an extension this season, before the start of free agency, for four seasons starting at around $12 million. Dallas is in a similar situation with a possible future Knicks free-agent target Jalen Brunson.
Wrote Hollinger: “Selected three picks after Brunson in the 2018 second round and signed to a similar four-year contract, Robinson and Brunson are in near-identical situations save for one important fact: The market is likely stronger for guards than centers in this day and age. As a result, the Knicks might be able to get more traction signing Robinson to an extension before the offseason begins.”
Top-Heavy NBA Free-Agent List in 2022
Part of the reason Robinson ranks highly on the list is the lack of talent in the overall free-agent group this summer, and when it comes to those who are elite players, it’s unlikely any of them will change locations. Zach LaVine, for example, is not going to leave Chicago. It’s possible that won’t apply to Bradley Beal, Kyrie Irving and James Harden, but in each case, the smart money would be on them staying put.
Even the two good restricted free agents are unlikely to leave their current situations, because the teams that employ them now can match any offer. Basically, the only truly available free agents will be fringe starters and top bench players.
- Zach LaVine, SG, Bulls
- Bradley Beal, SG, Wizards(player option)
- Kyrie Irving, PG, Nets (player option)
- James Harden, SG, Nets (player option)
Tier Two (Restricted)
- Deandre Ayton, C, Suns(restricted)
- Miles Bridges, SF/PF, Hornets(restricted)
- Montrezl Harrell, C, Wizards
- T.J. Warren, SF, Pacers
- Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Bucks(restricted)
- Jalen Brunson, PG, Mavericks
- Collin Sexton, PG/SG, Cavaliers(restricted)
- Mitchell Robinson, C, Knicks
- Bobby Portis, C, Bucks (player option)
- Ricky Rubio, PG, Cavaliers
- Kyle Anderson, SF, Grizzlies
- Victor Oladipo, SG, Heat
- Robert Covington, SF, Trail Blazers
- Jusuf Nurkic, C, Blazers
- Dennis Schröder, PG, Celtics
- Dorian Finney-Smith, SF, Mavs
- Joe Ingles, SF, Jazz
- Nic Batum, SF, Clippers(player option)
- Andre Drummond, C, 76ers
- Marvin Bagley, PF, Kings(restricted)
- Pat Connaughton, SG, Bucks
Knicks Not Pressured to Give Robinson and Extension
The Knicks probably do not feel a lot of pressure to sign Robinson to an extension because, as Hollinger referenced, there does not seem to be a strong market out there for centers, especially one who is injury prone (he has missed three games this season) and does not contribute much offensively.
Robinson came into the league as a center who did not stray from the basket much as an offensive player, taking 90.4% of his shots from within three feet of the basket. Very often, players expand their range as they mature, but Robinson has gone in the opposite direction–he takes 93.8% of his shots from within three feet of the basket this year.
Despite those limitations, Robinson will get a sizable raise next season. He is only 23 and a 7-footer who excels at rim protection, and is coming off a four-year deal he signed as a second-rounder, worth a total of $6.5 million.
He might not get the four years and $55 million the Knicks can offer him now, but he almost certainly will top $10 million per year, probably a contract in the range of three years and $35 million.