The numbers behind Mitchell Robinson’s breakout rookie season

On September 25th, 2017, the Knicks pulled the trigger on a franchise-altering trade, ending the Carmelo Anthony era, as they sent the declining star to Oklahoma City. In return, the Thunder sent over Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, and a 2018 second-round selection via Chicago.

Two full regular seasons have passed since that trade, and only one of the pieces involved in the deal remains with the team they were acquired by.

That piece would be the once-nameless Bulls second round pick
— which was used by the Knicks on a lanky seven-footer named Mitchell Robinson.

Let’s dive into some of the numbers behind the 21-year old’s surprisingly stout rookie campaign.

SHOT BLOCKING

  • Robinson blocked 161 shots in 66 games, giving him an average of 2.44 blocked shots per game. Despite playing only 20.6 minutes per game, Robinson still ranked second in the NBA in blocks per game, behind only Myles Turner (2.69).
  • With his 161 blocks coming in 1,360 minutes played, Robinson averaged a whopping 4.26 blocks per 36 minutes, easily the best in the NBA among players with at least 1,000 minutes played. Myles Turner followed Robinson in second place with an average of 3.38 blocks per 36 minutes — the gap between Robinson and the second-ranked Turner (0.88) was about equal to the gap between Turner and the ninth-ranked Richuan Holmes (2.40).
  • Robinson led the league with a block percentage (percentage of opponent two point attempts blocked) of 10.0%. It stands as the seventh-best single-season mark in NBA history (minimum 1000 minutes played) and the second-best ever by a rookie, behind only Manute Bol’s 10.6% in 1985-86.
  • In addition to his historical prowess blocking shots inside the arc, Robinson was uncannily elite at rejecting long-range attempts. Robinson blocked an absolutely bonkers 24 three-point shots. To put into perspective how great that is, the other nine players in the top ten of total blocks combined for 22 blocked three point attempts. [ Turner (2), Gobert (3), Lopez (1), McGee (1), Drummond (3), Whiteside (4), Davis (5), Towns (2), Embiid (1) ]

REBOUNDING

  • Robinson averaged 11.2 rebounds per 36 minutes over the course of the season, second-best among qualified rookies in 2018-19 behind only Deandre Ayton. Robinson’s 4.7 offensive rebounds per 36 minutes was the best by a rookie since Andre Drummond posted a mark of 4.9 in 2012-13.
  • Robinson wasn’t a very good rebounder to start his NBA career, but he began to dominate the glass in the second half of the season. In his first 35 games from the start of the year through January, Robinson averaged only 3.9 rebounds in 17.1 minutes, or about 8.2 boards per 36. In his final 31 games from the start of February through the end of the season, Robinson averaged 9.2 rebounds in 24.5 minutes, a sterling 13.5 bounds per 36.
  • From February 1st through the end of the regular season, Robinson’s 13.5 rebounds per 36 minutes placed him seventh in the league among players with at least 700 minutes played over that span. He ranked third in offensive rebounds per 36 (4.9) and 12th in defensive rebounds per 36 (8.6). He also collected 10 double-doubles over that span after posting only one prior to February.

SHOOTING EFFICIENCY

  • Robinson was the prototype “above the rim only” scorer in his first season. His average shot attempt distance was 1.5 feet. Dunks accounted for 63% of his made field goals. 90% of his shot attempts came from within three feet. With all of that said, Robinson’s shooting efficiency numbers were still remarkable. His .692 TS% led the entire NBA in 2018-19 (min. 1000 minutes), as did his .694 FG%. Robinson posted a FG% of .734 on shots within three feet, a very strong number.
  • Robinson markedly improved his free throw shooting prowess down the stretch. Through January, he converted on only 44.7% of his free throw attempts, while posting a free throw attempt rate of .393. Over the rest of the season, Robinson boosted his FT% all the way up to 68.2%. He did that while greatly increasing the amount of trips he took to the line, raising his free throw attempt rate to a whopping .500. Overall, Robinson more than tripled his average of free throws made per game, from 0.6 through January to 1.9 from February through the end of the season.

WIN SHARES

  • Win shares can be a murky stat, as it does tend to favor big men. However, it’s still one of the better tools to go to for a one number catch-all attempt. For Mitchell Robinson, win shares make his resume look sublime. Robinson accumulated 6.1 win shares in 2018-19, best among rookies.
  • Over the past ten seasons (since 2009-10), Robinson’s 6.1 win shares in 2018-19 stands as the eighth-best mark by a rookie. He’s in some star-studded company.

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