As the Knicks attempt to keep free-agent center Mitchell Robinson in New York, the Chicago Bulls could try to convince him otherwise.
Rumors of a Bulls-Robinson tie first surfaced shortly after this season’s trade deadline, when Marc Berman (New York Post) reported that Chicago was one of several teams to do their due diligence on acquiring the big man. Berman has now reiterated that point, saying New York cut off conversations about Robinson with Chicago (and Detroit) 24 hours before the trade deadline.
Berman also added that Arturas Karnisovas and Co. have not backed down in their Robinson pursuit, as the 24-year-old center is set to hit unrestricted free agency next month.
The Post has learned the Bulls are continuing to do their research on Robinson ahead of the July 1 free-agency period. The Bulls could be the main competitors for Robinson if the Knicks don’t lock him up to a contract extension on June 30.
The Bulls want to enhance their interior defense and believe Robinson could be a good fit slotted alongside offensive center Nikola Vucevic.
Berman’s report comes in the same week that The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor also connected Robinson back to the Bulls. However, that news was aggressively overshadowed by the coinciding report that Rudy Gobert was, too, considered on the table.
Regardless, these latest report from Berman on Chicago’s interest in Robinson’s services is the most concrete we’ve gotten so far. To label them as potentially the “main competitors” suggests that there is a genuine belief they could put up quite the fight this summer. And there are certainly several good reasons to do that.
Robinson may not provide the flashy impact of a Gobert or Ayton, but he would be a cheaper option who still possesses plenty of long-term upside. Rather than reword what I’ve already discussed, here’s some more about Robinson from our post about the initial post-trade-deadline news:
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 who 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 biggest worry about a Robinson deal would be his ability to stay on the floor — a heightened concern considering all the injury trouble we saw this roster face last season. However, if Robinson’s 72 games played this season are a sign of what’s to come, he is undoubtedly a defensive-minded big man worth pursuing.
Indeed, another critical point from Berman’s report is that it sounds as if Robinson would be an addition as opposed to a replacement. Nikola Vucevic would continue to be the starting center for an offensive-minded All-Star trio, while Robinson could be used as a defensive specialist. I think that plan sounds lovely, especially since Robinson could possess the potential to replace Vucevic as the starter if the Bulls decided to move on from the veteran big man after this season (Vucevic is on an expiring deal).
With that said, is this what Robinson wants? And do the Bulls want to possibly overpay for someone to come off the bench? I think it’s more than possible that another team could offer Robinson an immediately bigger role, but perhaps the Bulls’ winning season can play a part in convincing him to hop aboard. We’ll see.