The New York Knicks will have to play at least the next three weeks without center Mitchell Robinson, who will be out with a right thumb injury.
The Knicks played the Washington Wizards on Wednesday, and Robinson exited the game in the first half with a right thumb injury. He did not return, and after the game, the Knicks said he had a sprained thumb.
Further testing and imaging on Thursday revealed a fractured thumb. Robinson underwent surgery, and he’s sidelined until mid-February.
The injury to Robinson, one of the NBA’s premier rim protectors, could not have happened at a worse time. The Knicks lost two games in a row and now have a 25-21 record. They’re in seventh place in the Eastern Conference playoff standings, and would be headed to the Play-In Tournament if the season ended today.
The Knicks occupy fourth place in the Atlantic Division, and trail the first-place Boston Celtics by nine games. The Knicks are a massive long shot at +13000 odds to win their division.
The Knicks are not serious contenders to win the 2022-23 NBA championship according to oddsmakers and bettors. They’re +18000 odds to win the title, and +6500 odds to win the Eastern Conference for the first time since the 1998-99 season.
Robinson: Knicks Anchor on Defense
In his fifth season with the Knicks, Robinson averages 7.2 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game. Robinson loves to crash the boards when the Knicks have the ball. He’s ranked #2 in the NBA averaging 4.3 offensive rebounds per game.
Robinson is the anchor on defense, and his loss is a huge blow. The Knicks’ defense has been bad during huge stretches this season. However, Robinson was always the stabilizing force who helped the team get big stops in the fourth quarter.
The Knicks took a flier on Robinson with a late second-round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. He became a quick fan favorite at Madison Square Garden because of his defensive tenacity and toughness, which reminded old-school fans of the rough and tumble Knicks from the 1990s.
Robinson struggled with injuries during his career. He missed 27 games during his first two seasons with the Knicks. He missed 41 games in the 2020-21 season. Last season, he only missed 10 games and posted a career-high 8.5 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.
Next Man Up: Hartenstein, Toppin, Sims
Without Mitchell, head coach Tom Thibodeau will have to rely on backup center Isaiah Hartenstein. In his first season with the Knicks, Hartenstein averages 5.1 points, 6.1 rebounds per game.
Hartenstein played for the Los Angeles Clippers last season, and averaged a career-high 8.3 points per game. The Clippers used him as a spot-up 3-point shooter off the bench. He shot an impressive 46.7% from beyond the arc, and 62.6% from the floor.
Hartenstein has been mentioned in trade rumors with the deadline less than three weeks away. The Knicks would love to add All-Star shooting guard Bradley Beal from the Washington Wizards, and Hartenstein would be included in a hybrid deal that includes players and draft picks.
The Knicks drafted center Jericho Sims with a second-round pick out of Texas in the 2021 NBA Draft. He averages 3.5 points and 4.2 rebounds per game this season. Sims is a defensive specialist and rarely shoots the ball, but when he does, he shoots a highly-efficient 77.1% from the floor.
If Thibodeau wants to roll the dice with a small-ball lineup, he could use forwards Julius Randle and Obi Toppin in the #5 spot. Randle, the Knicks’ leading scorer and rebounder, averages 24.2 points and 10.7 rebounds per game.
Toppin recently returned from a fractured kneecap injury. He averages 6.6 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. Toppin is grew up in New York City, and the high-energy forward is another big fan favorite at Madison Square Garden.
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