Despite accumulating minutes as a reserve, Mitchell Robinson has made several impressive achievements as a defender. His 2.4 blocks / beginner game ranked 2nd in the NBA. While he has suffered a slight regression this season, his 2 blocks / game are in 7th place in the NBA. This helped keep the Knicks at the center of the group in terms of blocking throws / play.
While Mitch gained his reputation as an intimidating shot blocker, he came at the expense of the defensive rebound. When analyzing the Knicks’ rebound numbers, it is important to point out that leading the league in rebounds / offensive matches has helped raise their total rebound numbers to 7th in the NBA. Their defensive rebounds / game are placed 17th in the NBA. In other words, the Knicks are an average team in taking defensive rebounds, so they are average in finishing defensive possessions.
One of the downsides to contesting each shot is that Mitch exposed the defense to losing the rebounding battle on the defensive side. His defensive rebound rate (DRB%) of 16% (according to NBA advanced statistics) ranks him in 43rd place on all qualifying centers that have played at least 40 games. The top 10 centers, in terms of DRB%, have an average minimum of 26%.
Any missed opportunity of defensive rebound allows the offense to get an easy opportunity to score on the basket or a jump shot due to poor positioning. Defensive rebounds can make the difference between wins and losses.
During the 2019-20 season, the Knicks were one of the worst teams in the league in terms of 3-point goals and 3-point goals percentage. At 38% of 3P / FG% opponents, the Knicks gave up on really good perimeter shots. Securing some defensive rebounds could reduce those open three-point opportunities. Securing defensive rebounds allows the Knicks to take a quick break, getting a better look from the perimeter or paint. The Knicks were one of the worst offensive teams in the league, ranking bottom of FG% (24th), 3PTM, 3PA, 3P%, FTA and PPG.
On the other hand, more attention to defensive rebounds can also help Mitch avoid fouls. While Mitch made a great effort to minimize unnecessary fouls, his 3.2 fouls / game are tied for the 13th in the NBA, a feat further amplified by the fact that most of the leaders ahead of him played significantly more minutes. Better positioning on the glass will help reduce fouls in the future.
Thibs’ main goal for Mitch is to emphasize the importance of ending a defensive possession. The inability to take defensive rebounds has a domino effect on the team’s defense and at the same time limits the positive side of the offense.
Mitch must learn to be judicious in contesting the shots and position himself with a better positioning to intimidate the shots, go wild to take rebounds and minimize fouls. Thibs knows the temptation to block every single hit all too well, as he was on the front lines for Karl-Anthony Towns and Gorgui Dieng in Minnesota. In order for Mitch to be a full-time lawyer, he will have to sacrifice the challenge of every single shot – and potentially reduce his blocks / game – to be a true defensive anchor.