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Mitchell Robinson Fantasy Basketball: Is the Knicks big man really a top 20 pick?

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Josh Lloyd is a Fantasy Basketball expert for Yahoo Sport based in Melbourne, Australia. His weekly articles will give you the edge on your opponents. Get in touch with questions for Josh on Twitter where he's always active.

The Knicks are the butt of many jokes, but if we are going to dunk on their ineptitude, we have to give credit where it is due.

Drafting Mitchell Robinson in the second round of the 2018 NBA Draft was an absolute steal. If that draft was redrafted today, Robinson would likely be a top 10 selection.

[Join or create a 2019 Yahoo Fantasy Basketball league for free today]

The Knicks took it very slowly with Robinson last season, some would say a little too slow, but once Enes Kanter was bought out and DeAndre Jordan was benched, Robinson was pushed into a starting role.

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Unfortunately for us, it took David Fizdale until there were seven games left to decide to do that. He ended up starting 19 games out of the 66 he played, seeing just under 21 minutes a night.

Mitchell Robinson reacting in the NBA Summer League for the New York Knicks.
Will the New York Knicks' Mitchell Robinson become a must-pick this season. (Getty Images)

As a rookie, Robinson ranked 129th in standard fantasy points scoring, but that is not an accurate representation of how you should view him this year.

After the NBA All-Star break, Robinson saw his playing time jump to 25 minutes a night and he cracked the top 60 in that stretch of time, as he blocked a whopping three shots per game. He also added 9.5 point and 9.4 rebounds and that brought his average to 33.6 fantasy points in those final 27 games.

This season Jordan is across the bridge in Brooklyn, Kanter is in Boston, and Robinson is slated to be the starting centre for the Knicks.

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But, this does not mean he has the green light to play 33 minutes a night — far from it.

David Fizdale was the most frustrating coach to deal with in fantasy last season.

His nonsensical explanations for erratic rotations, a refusal to allow players to play through foul trouble, and general rotational mistakes made rostering Knicks players an exercise fraught with danger.

Ignas Brazdeikis #17 and Mitchell Robinson #23 of the New York Knicks celebrate. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ignas Brazdeikis #17 and Mitchell Robinson #23 of the New York Knicks celebrate. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Not even Fizdale will stop Robinson from starting, but given that the Knicks signed Taj Gibson (a centre), Bobby Portis (best position centre), Julius Randle (starting power forward whose best position is centre), and Marcus Morris (a power forward who they may shoehorn into the small forward spot), Fizdale will have every reason to try and limit Robinson.

Mitchell Robinson’s foul trouble

Part of the reason Robinson didn’t see many minutes last season was because he averaged 5.7 fouls per 36 minutes.

Once he accumulated early fouls, Fizdale would sit him down for long stretches. Later in the season, Robinson kept his fouls under control and he started the final seven games of the season.

In those games, he played 32.4 minutes and never fouled out once. But, the flipside to this is in order to stay out of foul trouble, Robinson had to be less aggressive in going after blocks.

This resulted in an average of only three blocks per game in those seven starts.

I can hear you already: “Josh, three blocks per game is unbelievable.” Yes, it is, I agree. But, given he averaged three blocks per game after the All-Star break in only 25 minutes, playing an additional seven minutes and getting no blocks has to be viewed as a bit disappointing.

Robinson took 90 per cent of his shots within three feet last year and converted those at 73 per cent, so don’t expect him to stretch out like a lot of modern bigs.

But given the Knicks were 4.6 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court, versus when he was on the bench, his importance speaks for itself.

Expectations are higher for Robinson this year after he made his way onto the All-Rookie second team as a second-round pick, but concerns remain.

His value in a standard points league format is lower than a category league, where he can help lock down your blocks and field goal percentage category.

I think he will lead the NBA in blocks this season after finishing fourth last season averaging only 20 minutes a night.

But players’ block rates drop as they get smarter and need to stay on the floor more. Therefore, I’d expect that trend to potentially continue again.

So where should we draft Robinson?

His Yahoo Fantasy rank is currently sitting at 20, which is way too high for a standard points league in my opinion, where he should be considered as a player to look at in the 60s, and maybe in the 50s.

So much of what Robinson brings to fantasy is going to hinge on Fizdale making common-sense decisions, so that’s why there is an inherent risk on spending too high of a pick on Mitch. But, he will be exciting, there is no doubt about that.

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and keep an eye out for the next mailbag tweet to gather your questions.

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