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The Knicks player poised for a breakout season in 2021-22

Knicks, 2021-2022, NBA, Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson

The New York Knicks had a great year last season. After being the epitome of uncertainty, toxicity, and instability, the Knicks pulled out a great season, finishing as the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. Now, it is true that many teams had injury issues or generally down years, but that does not downplay the Knicks and the stride forwards that they took.

It all began with a coaching change, as David Fizdale got sacked a couple of months into the season prior. After interim coach Mike Miller finished the season, new addition Tom Thibodeau took over and the team skyrocketed to the top of the East. His slow, defensive playstyle resonated with the roster he had since they finished third in defensive rating last season.

It was also an excellent year for Julius Randle. The former Laker and Pelican exploded in his second season, becoming a first-time All-Star. He put up 24.1 points and 10.2 rebounds per game, playing league-most 37 minutes per contest. This is simply the Thibs special, as he was always the type of coach to play his best guys all the minutes possible. Randle was helped in a massive way by RJ Barrett and Derrick Rose, two guards who took care of scoring from these positions.

The Knicks now have significant expectations going forward. They are firstly pressured by their fanbase to always play in the postseason and now that they have shown it is possible, they will be expected to be in the Playoffs. Secondly, the thought of cross-town rivals, the Brooklyn Nets, being favorites for the championship must be more motivation to have an even better season. Finally, a lot of these players are still doubted as products of a poor Eastern Conference, so that will be even more motivation.

However, for the Knicks to be the best possible, their players need to have a breakthrough season.

Mitchell Robinson

Robinson is a center beaming with potential. He has been with the Knicks for three years now and it seems like he is somewhat stagnating. Robinson is constantly around ten points, seven rebounds, and two blocks per game, but he has all the upside to go and completely dominates on both ends of the floor. A center like him is needed for most NBA teams, and the Knicks have the privilege of being on the roster already.

In addition to everything said above, he has more advantages and circumstances going his way. Robinson is in his contract year, still on his rookie deal that pays him around $1.8 million. Should he want more than a small pay rise, he will need to dominate and have a season where people will turn heads. He is also playing a position where the Knicks do not have a lot of options. Other than Robinson and Randle possibly playing center, Nerlens Noel is trying to revive his career and not much else. The team is full of guards mostly who will need to share the time, but Robinson should have the starting spot and starting minutes locked up.

It is worrying that he has not taken that leap yet, especially in the offensive part of his game. However, there is still time and he truly needs to step up and have a breakthrough season, not only for his team but for himself. The defensive part is excellent. He is an elite rim protector who can be trusted with anchoring the defense. Last season, he was the starter in 29 out of 31 games, playing 27.5 minutes and that should be increased to even more come this season. When Thibodeau, out of all coaches, trusts you with anchoring the defense like he does Robinson, you owe him a great season – something Robinson will have this year!

The Knicks are not contenders right now, nor do they have the potential to be, as of right now. Simply said, all the other top teams are historically strong and it is difficult for solid, well-rounded teams like this to even hope for something in April and May. However, the Knicks have a great roster that can ruffle some serious feathers in the East. For that to happen, Robinson must step up. Now, he has the unique chance of playing with a true, star-level point guard in Kemba Walker and he has to use it. Robinson might be a contender for the Most Improved Player award if he can come into that 12-15 points per game range while keeping his defensive effort and ability elite.

That is his expectation, and after everything that could have been seen about him, it can be said that Robinson has that potential. Now, it is time to use it to the fullest degree!