ESPN New York’s Jared Zwerling reported on Saturday afternoon that soon-to-be free agent Nate Robinson would welcome a return back to the New York Knicks. “Nate’s first thought would be to remain with the Bulls, but if the Knicks’ opportunity presented itself, I am sure he would appreciate an opportunity to play in New York again,” said Robinson’s agent Aaron Goodwin in the piece.
For fans who only know of Robinson from his days as a Knick, the name conjures rambunctiousness, nonconformity and an overwhelming amount of bad shots. However, since his tenure with the Knicks – which ended midway through the 2010 season – “Nate the Great” has matured into a much more calm and effective scoring threat.
(For detail into his journey from a shot-crazy Knickerbocker to a formidable point guard in Chicago you can read my profile on Robinson here.)
Although Robinson was still more inconsistent than many would have liked this season, I believe he can be of plenty use if he signs with the Knicks this summer. Coming from the guy who slaughtered J.R. Smith for his erratic play, it sounds odd. I know. But, there does lie a position on the team in which Nate Robinson can be not only an efficient scorer but one of the best in the league to do it off the bench.
This season, Robinson was signed to score off the bench for the Chicago Bulls with star point guard Derrick Rose sitting out until the Earth blows itself up. In the 2086 minutes Robinson played this season, (a career-high) he spent 306 of those on the floor alongside Bulls’ replacement starter at the one Kirk Hinrich. Hinrich is a ten-year veteran of the league and a solid general of an offense. Now let’s look at Robinson’s efficiency with Hinrich on and off the floor:
|Stat||Hinrich on court||Hinrich off court|
As you can see, Robinson becomes a deadly scorer with a stable point guard in play. There is a bit of distortion considering Robinson only played on the court with Hinrich for 306 minutes, but the results are glaring. Only two players since the birth of the NBA have even tallied the same minutes, USG% and eFG% marks over a season as Robinson did in his time with Hinrich: Michael Jordan and LeBron James. Again, I think small-sample size may have something to do with this.
Robinson transitions from a two-guard on offense to a point on defense when playing with Hinrich, thus maintaining his impressive scoring while also being less of a cancer on the defensive end. Playing off the ball on the scoring end means less turnovers from Robinson as you can see above, something the Knicks modeled themselves after this season. Also note that the Bulls don’t have another point guard like Kirk Hinrich, while the Knicks will potentially have two next year.
Jason Kidd is mulling retirement, with the other option being playing through the final two years of his contract. Meanwhile, Pablo Prigioni is also debating whether or not to stay in New York or go back to Argentina. Yes, these are two “what-ifs?” that we are basing whether or not Nate Robinson is of value to the Knicks. I also failed to mention the money factor, as the Knicks can only realistically offer the mini-MLE to Robinson in order to have a shot at signing him.
It is safe to assume one of the aforementioned names will be sporting the orange and blue next season, and in this case I am all for the return of Nate Robinson. His spark off the bench would be of good use when playing alongside a capable floor leader, and I have no doubts that Knick fans will welcome him with open arms. Worst-case scenario, he stinks but he’s super fun to watch. Another Dunk Contest please?