Mitchell Robinson is the best offensive rebounder right now in the NBA.
It became his undisputed title after grabbing 11 offensive rebounds in Saturday night’s victory over the Hornets, giving Robinson 50 percent more than anybody else in the league this season.
But Robinson doesn’t think his greatest skill is a skill at all.
“It’s just effort,” he said. “It’s really just effort.”
What about the art of rebounding? The techniques of boxing out? The greater instincts it requires to know where a ball is going to bounce off the rim? We were sold tales of Dennis Rodman becoming the best because he honed all his senses — including hearing — to determine the trajectory of a missed shot.
Surely, Robinson knows the secret recipe.
“I mean, if a guy shoots from the left side, nine times out of 10, it goes to the right side,” Robinson said. “It’s just kind of common sense. Ain’t that much to it.”
You can’t accuse Robinson of exaggerating his self-importance. But everybody else seems more impressed.
Still just 25 and in his sixth season, Robinson surpassed Bill Cartwright on Saturday for third on the Knicks’ all-time list with 1,116 for career offensive boards. He’s still less than halfway to catching No. 2 (Charles Oakley) and No. 1 (Patrick Ewing), but the outrageous pace makes it seem possible Robinson will get to the top.
“He’ll be at the top of that list before it’s all said and done,” Tom Thibodeau said. “He’s been — he really had a great year last year, people didn’t recognize how well he played. I think this year he’s gone to another level. The growth has been great. He’s critical to our team. His teammates have great appreciation, the coaches, the organization, for all the little things that he does to help the team succeed.”
Only three players — Rodman, Moses Malone and Jayson WIlliams — averaged higher in a season than Robinson’s current mark of six offensive boards per game. Much of it is about his role. Robinson doesn’t get involved in New York’s offense, leaving him free to stand under the rim for prime position whenever a teammate hoists a shot.
The rebounding — coupled with Robinson’s rim protection for one of the league’s top rated defenses — has catapulted Robinson into the early conversation for a spot on the All-Defense team. He’d be the first Knick since Tyson Chandler in 2013 to earn a selection.
And it’s something Robinson would appreciate.
“Of course, I’m a defensive player. That’s one of my goals,” he said. “That’s why I’m trying to stay out of foul trouble as much as possible. Play smarter. I can’t block every shot but I can definitely alter it.”
Smarter doesn’t necessarily translate to rebounding, however. According to Robinson, that’s mostly just luck and effort.
“A lot of missed shots,” Robinson shrugged. “Doing my job. Rebounding. That’s what I’m supposed to do.”