While the Chicago Bulls did not add to the frontcourt at this season’s trade deadline, it may not have been for a lack of trying. According to the New York Post’s Marc Berman, the Chicago Bulls were one of several teams to take a look at Knicks big man Mitchell Robinson last week.
Four teams went after Knicks center Mitchell Robinson at Thursday’s trade deadline, including the Bulls and Pistons, according to an NBA source.
Ultimately the Knicks pulled back, didn’t make any trades and now risk losing their longest-tenured player as an unrestricted free agent this July.
Bulls fans might be most familiar with Robinson for his flagrant foul on Patrick Williams earlier this season. Chicago’s second-year forward is still working his way back from the wrist injury caused by his hard fall on that very play. To be sure, while Robinson was handed a Fragrant 1, the foul did not appear to be intentional or aggressively off-kilter (in other words, non-Grayson-Allen-esque).
Put that unfortunate foul aside, and it’s not hard to believe the Bulls did pick up the phone and ask about the Knicks center. Robinson is a rim-protecting menace who stands seven-feet tall with a seven-foot-four wingspan. He’s averaged just under 2.0 blocks per game over his career to go along with a defensive box plus-minus that has remained positive all four seasons of his career. This year, Robinson has appeared in 51 games (starting 42) while averaging 8.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game. His 78 percent mark at the rim this season also ranks in the NBA’s 95th percentile, per Cleaning the Glass.
Robinson may not be the most versatile big, but he is an athletic rim-running lob-threat that would surely provide something different – and much-needed – at the center position. However, the main issue for Robinson throughout his career has been staying on the floor. The big man has yet to appear in more than 66 games over a full season. He does have a chance to finally break that threshold as this year drags on, but he’s certainly built a reputation that has fallen under the injury-prone category over his first four seasons in the league.
The good news is Robinson is just 23 years old. We’ve seen a handful of young players struggle to stay on the floor before finally hitting a healthy groove, which is why it comes as no surprise that a handful of teams remain focused on adding the big man. The Bulls were specifically named alongside the Pistons as a team who “went after” Robinson this deadline, and Berman also wrote that both organizations should have interest in him again this offseason. He also listed the Mavericks and Pelicans as possible teams to watch.
Robinson will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and Berman expressed that his relationship with the Knicks organization isn’t “on firm ground.” Of course, that does not mean the young center will not accept a hefty new contract thrown his way, but it does open the door for plenty of speculation. Arturas Karnisovas demonstrated this past offseason that he can convince free-agent talent of a worthwhile role in Chicago. Robinson may not be in line for a starting role with the Bulls, but he could be a significant contributor to a team that should still be seen as a true Eastern Conference threat.
I know it sounds silly to discuss the free-agent market already. However, these deadline talks/rumors can sometimes prove to be a big indicator of what happens later on. Remember last year when the Bulls were heavily tied to Lonzo Ball and even connected to DeMar DeRozan? We know the Bulls need help in the backup big department, and a buyout candidate likely isn’t going to be the long-term answer, so we might as well keep our eye on the Robinson market as we head toward warmer weather.