Dwight Howard is one of the best big men of his generation with eight All-Star appearances and three defensive player of the year awards. So, when he compliments a young NBA big man, it registers as high praise.
In the Wizards' victory over the Knicks on Sunday night, New York rookie Mitchell Robinson did enough to draw Howard's attention despite Howard having never heard of him before the game.
Howard found out quickly just how long and athletic Robinson is. The 2018 second round pick blocked one of Howard's shots in the first quarter that caught the Wizards center by surprise.
Howard thought he was open and fired off a shot from about 20 feet out, but Robinson used his 7-foot-4 wingspan to close the distance get a piece of the ball.
"My first shot, he blocked it and I was like 'oh man, okay.' After that, it was like 'oh, I kind of like this guy,'" Howard said.
Mitchell Robinson does not seem fazed by playing Dwight Howard. (Not that many are at this point). The Knicks rookie blocks his jumper and starts a one-man break the other way. pic.twitter.com/NJZIUMYF2F— Mike Vorkunov (@MikeVorkunov) November 4, 2018
Robinson, 20, was one of the hardest prospects to evaluate in the 2018 NBA Draft. At 7-foot-1 with speed and an impressive vertical leap, he has physical attributes of a future NBA All-Star.
But he is very raw and entered the draft with questions about his attitude and mental makeup. Robinson never played in college despite committing to Western Kentucky University. He then backed out of the NBA Combine in May.
If it weren't for those question marks, Robinson would have been a first-round pick. But so far, he has looked like a potential draft steal for the Knicks.
Robinson had 10 points and six rebounds on the night. It was his third time reaching double-digit scoring in his last four games.
It isn't the numbers that draw everyone's eyes to Robinson, it's his athleticism. Howard knows a thing or two about being an athletic big man and sees a bright future for Robinson.
"He's got a lot of potential," Howard said. "I wish I had my legs tonight to jump up there with him. A couple times when he was jumping, I was like 'yeah, I'm not there yet.' Let him have it."
Howard made reference to his piriformis muscle strain, an injury that kept him sidelined to begin the season and still affects his leaping ability.
Robinson caught him by surprise on Sunday night. Next time, he will know what to expect.
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