The Nate Robinson free agency sweepstakes was supposed to feature a bonanza of offers from team’s who witnessed him eviscerate Brooklyn in the first round of the playoffs last year while a member of the Bulls. Many believed teams looking for an offensive spark off the bench would jump on the Nate Rob bandwagon after it became clear what he could do under pressure in the playoffs. Except, that’s not what’s happened so far.
Through the first two weeks of the NBA’s free agency period, most column inches were devoted to Dwight Howard, Josh Smith, Chris Paul and other big name free agents. There was nary a mention of the 5-9 dunk machine and there just didn’t seem to be much of an interest.
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The Knicks have expressed interest in bring Robinson back, especially with J.R. Smith undergoing knee surgery, but they could only offer the mini mid-level exception, or the minimum salary Nate played for with Chicago last year. So have the Nuggets, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein. But you’ll notice those links are five days old, and still Nate hasn’t signed a deal.
Not even Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau wants him back despite Nate almost single-handedly helping a Bulls get out of a tough seven-game first round series against the Nets. Thibs is at least a little understandable since Nate was just the plug to shore up Chicago’s woeful offense with 2011 MVP Derrick Rose out all season recovering from the ACL tear.
But Nate’s offensive heroics should have piqued at least a little interest from teams that needed some scoring off the bench, and didn’t mind spending a little something to bring someone onboard with big game bonafides. Remember, in Game 4 of the Bulls-Nets series, he put up 34 points, 29 of which occurred after the third quarter, in a classic triple OT playoff game the Bulls stole. In Game 6, while vomiting from the illness that put Luol Deng, Rob still managed to score 18 points to almost force Chicago to victory. Then Nate Rob scored nine of the Bulls’ final 12 points in Chicago’s shocking upset of eventual champion Miami in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. All of his happened with Nate earning the league’s minimum last season.
Is there something we’re missing, besides the hesitation of NBA GMs to throw money at a 29-year-old shoot-first guard that stands only 5-9? Maybe you can make the argument that he’s simply not a good enough defender to warrant a multi-year deal exceeding $2 million a season. But he did shoot over 40 percent from 3-point range last season while attempting 4.2 threes a game. Among players who averaged over four 3-point attempts last season, only 13 in the entire league shot better than 40.5 percentage from distance, according to NBA.com.
Robinson’s PER was better than Goran Dragic, Jrue Holiday, George Hill, Jeff Teague, Damian Lillard and a host of other players, per hoopdata.com. But aside from Lillard’s rookie deal, all those players earn a lot more than Nate. Plus, Nate’s usage rate last season was higher than all those players except Holiday. He was usually the only player off the bench and late in games who could create his own shot in Chicago’s lethargic offense.
So what gives?