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The Knicks’ Rookie Center Is A Statistical Enigma

Mitchell Robinson is a unicorn. His forte is shot-blocking in an era when offenses are designed to attempt field goals 25 feet from the rim. On offense, the almost-21-year-old rookie shoots mostly at the iron — and “shooting” is probably not the right word to describe what he does with the ball on offense, since nearly half of his field-goal attempts are dunks. Robinson stands 7-foot-1 with a 7-foot-4-inch wingspan, so it’s hardly a surprise that he is virtually unstoppable around the rim, explaining his 68.2 field-goal percentage that would lead the league if he had enough attempts.

Robinson’s skills run counter to today’s game. And the various performance-rating systems disagree radically on how to assess his value. Maybe he’s one of the best rookie players in NBA history, as is indicated by win shares per 48 minutes (WS/48) and Box Plus/Minus (BPM). Or perhaps he’s just a bottom-rung NBA center, as ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus (RPM) system says. On the one hand, Robinson is a player who can go a long way in helping pull the Knicks up from the pit in which they’re currently mired as the NBA’s worst team. But on the other hand, he is a mere statistical mirage to Knicks fans so thirsty for hope.nfl nike jerseys for cheap6

There’s not even broad agreement on Robinson’s defensive prowess, despite his historic rate of blocking shots. While rejections are not required to be a great defender, it’s the most obvious manifestation of stopping an opponent from scoring. And in this area, Robinson is unquestionably a generational talent. Forget about being tied for 12th since the 1983-84 season1 with his (current) streak of two or more blocks in 22 straight games. Sure, only three other rookies have topped that. But even more impressive is that he’s blocking an all-time best 10.9 percent of 2-pointers, a stratosphere that no NBA player has approached since the heyday of 7-foot-7 Manute Bol three decades ago.

And Robinson is blocking 3-pointers, too — though that might remind Knicks fans of the team’s best chance for its only championship since the Nixon era, which was snuffed out by an athletic center who ventured out beyond the arc.

ESPN’s RPM doesn’t even rate Robinson’s defensive performance highly. He’s just the 46th best defensive center this season — likely because, according to RPM, his shot blocking doesn’t do much to help his teammates stop opponents from scoring.2

In BPM, however, Robinson’s on-court performance is placed in the context of an average player on an average team, according to Basketball-Reference.com. This metric says Robinson is the best defender in basketball, at 5.7 points better than average per 100 possessions.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

If BPM is accurately assessing Robinson, he’s on pace to become one of the better second-round draft picks of all-time — and certainly the best, value-wise, in recent Knicks history. Robinson is having the fourth-best rookie season ever by this metric,3 at 6.3 points over average on an average team. But the rookies ahead of him — 1984-85 Michael Jordan (8.2), 1975-76 Alvan Adams (6.7) and 1989-90 David Robinson (6.5) — were all Top 4 picks. Mitchell Robinson was picked 36th overall.