The major moves of the 2019 New York Knicks' offseason are, in all likelihood, behind us. The roster is beginning to resemble one of a competent NBA team, with perhaps the best talent sitting in the frontcourt.
Last season, Mitchell Robinson emerged as a clear steal in the previous summer's draft, breaking records and making the All-Rookie Second Team. He could have made a case for Rookie of the Year had he performed all season like he did post-All-Star break.
Joining him to start at power forward is Julius Randle, a 24-year-old southpaw with many a trick in his bag. That's a major influx in talent to be sure, but how the two will mesh has yet to be seen. Here's how it may work out...
It won't be incredibly difficult to share the ball between the two. Robinson attempted just 10 shots per 100 possessions, a third of which came on put-backs and another quarter as the roll man. He won't be getting in Randle's space often, as the former Pelican is a fan of the mid-post but has the versatility to score from elsewhere.
After a few poor but improving shooting years, Randle will have to provide spacing for Robinson on screen and rolls. Randle shot 34.4 percent from three last season, with his top zones being the left wing and corner. Whether his clip can continue climbing is a fair question, but even if it's only stagnant, there's good news. Randle takes very few long twos, so he should thrive by either parking himself beyond the arc or in the short corner on Robinson pick-and-rolls.
This is Robinson's offensive meal ticket: screening, turning, bolting and catching lobs towards the rim. It's possible Robinson has been working on other facets of his offense that he and the coaching staff will want to see on an NBA floor this season, perhaps a post game or short-range jumper. From what we've seen thus far, though, his bread and butter is as a roll man.
Robinson has shown off some decent hands and a great understanding of both role and position on the floor. The next step will be making decisions off the catch if Randle's man drops down. We'll likely see more Randle-to-Robinson drop-offs early on as the latter is more likely to probe around the dunker spot while Randle will have a prominent stake in the offense and is developing his passing touch. A neat little chemistry could form here that would punish unsuspecting defenses.
Robinson will also be able to feed on all of Randle's misses. The rookie snatched 13.3 percent of available offensive rebounds last season, ranking 12th in the league. It may be easier for him to collect Randle's missed shots, as 72.8 percent of his shot attempts came from within 10 feet, a clip far higher than your average power forward in 2019. In general, rebounding won't be an issue for the Knicks with these two up front. It likely won't happen, but Randle taking on the Robin Lopez role of targeting and boxing out the biggest board threat on any missed shot with Robinson there to leap over the rest would be a blast.
Defensively, things are a little more up in the air. Robinson is a stalwart, coming into the league with an impressive feel for reading NBA offenses, and possessing the timing and length to swat 5.7 shots per 100 possessions. How he'll top that in his second year will be a must-watch narrative for onlookers, but he has a challenge in sharing the frontcourt with Randle.
His frontcourt teammate is no stud on that end, even taking a step back last year. Smaller and quicker fours will have their way, but the Knicks have responses in hiding Randle on an offensive liability or sliding him to the center position when Robinson is on the bench. New York's defense will partially be decided on how many of Randle's mistakes Robinson clean up and how much of an improvement we'll see from Randle under David Fizdale, though there are serious concerns on this end beyond Randle.
The Knicks have stepped up big-time in the asset acquisition department, most impressively in the frontcourt. Robinson and Randle should, at the very least, be an interesting and fun pairing to watch. They have a wide variety of skills, many of which are complementary. And although we'll be seeing plenty of each playing with other bigs on the team, and a split could arrive in just two years, the wait to watch them bring those skills to the court together can't be over soon enough.